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Patrick Martin
Patrick Martin

Flight 74

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Flight 74


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TWA flight 74The plane involved in the crash while on the ground in 1989, in a different airport.AccidentDateNovember 18, 1990SummaryIn-flight fire due to fuel tank failureSiteAtlantic OceanAircraftAircraft typeBoeing 747-100OperatorTrans World AirlinesFlight originJohn F. Kennedy International Airport, New York City, New York, United StatesDestinationCharles de Gaulle Airport, Paris, FranceOccupants325Passengers306Crew19Fatalities325Survivors0

TWA Flight 74 was a scheduled daily flight from John F. Kennedy Airport to Charles de Gaulle Airport in France. On the 18th of November, 1990, the plane crashed into the North Atlantic Ocean just as it performed a slight banking manuver.

On that fateful day, the plane operating the flight, N93114, would carry 306 passengers and 19 crew members onboard, which was built in 1973 and delivered in 1974, suffered a malfunction shortly after the banking manuver. The accident was caused by faulty wiring which led to a fuel tank failure and in-flight fire, leading to a mid-air breakup.

The flight would take off from John F. Kennedy Airport at 11:50 AM local time. It was scheduled to head to Charles de Gaulle Airport, and would carry several important members of the US Government to secure a loan with the French regarding a terrorist attack on French soil in 1984, and that the French would use these funds to rebuild part of southern Paris, where the attacks took place.

As the plane took off from the runway, a small spark of electricity in the fuel tank just next to the wings causes a small part of wire light the fuel tank up. The fuel then caught fire 24 minutes into the flight, lighting up most of the cargo hold, which caught fire.

It is also theorized that the plane deliberately crashed as when the military asked for the flight's coordinates, the coordinates they sent lead to nowhere. This could have been due to personal issues in the pilot's life.

Two Bell X-1s and a modified B-29 on the Edwards Air Force Base, California, flight line. The X-1 was first placed into a pit then attached to the B-29. The X-1 pit is still a prominent landmark on the base. (Photo courtesy of Air Force Test Center History Office)

As far back as the 1930s, a professor at the Army Air Corps Engineering School named Ezra Kotcher had seen a need for a specialized research aircraft to test flight conditions at speeds approaching and exceeding Mach 1. Knowing that the highest-speed planes of the day could not reach that speed, nor could available wind tunnels accurately simulate it, Kotcher proposed to the Army a rocket-powered research plane in 1939.

AAF headquarters formally signed off on the idea in June of 1947. Boyd had already begun the difficult job of planning the program and choosing the team to carry it out. He selected Capt. Jackie L. Ridley, an Oklahoman with a Masters in Aeronautical engineering, as the engineer-in-charge for the project, relying on his ability to effectively communicate theoretical and abstract concepts in common terms to provide expert guidance to the pilots. 1st L. Robert Hoover would serve as the secondary pilot. Maj. Robert L. Cardenas and 1st Lt. Edward L. Swindell would fly the B-29 which would carry the XS-1 up for its flights.

Though Yeager departed radically from the plan laid out for that first powered flight (much to the consternation of Boyd and the NACA team on site), he had gained a significant grasp on the handling characteristics of the rocket-powered plane. His second powered flight saw the XS-1 reach Mach 0.89 on Sept. 4.

Upon reaching 42,000 feet, Yeager fired off the third of four chambers and accelerated rapidly. Within moments, his Mach-meter went off the scale and he correctly assumed he had crossed the sound barrier. Analysis confirmed that he had reached Mach 1.06 at roughly 43,000 feet. He concluded the flight with a clean glide in to land on Rogers Lakebed. As Yeager noted, he had experienced no flash of buffeting or chaos as he broke Mach 1.0 and he needed the mach-meter to tell him he had just made history.

While the NACA continued to use the other two XS-1 craft for their detailed, data-gathering flight plans in the months ahead, the Air Force team had broken the sound barrier in nine powered flights and under four months. In doing so, the team had also proven that Air Force Test pilots could handle such aggressive and experimental flying. They had also demonstrated, especially on that dangerous eighth flight, just how perfect Muroc was for flight testing experimental aircraft.

By 1951, the new Air Force Flight Test Center and the Air Force Test Pilot School relocated to the renamed Edwards Air Force Base. Though that small team could not know it when they broke Mach 1 in 1947, Air Force experimental planes would break Machs 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 above Edwards in less than 15 years, a proud legacy of flight test and experimentation started by the team that built and tested the Bell XS-1.

The Vertical Flight Society's Annual Forum & Technology Display is the world's leading international technical event on vertical flight technology. The three-day meeting includes more than 200 technical papers on every discipline from Acoustics to Unmanned Systems. Forum Proceedings papers can be purchased as individual pdf files or as CD-ROMs from the Vertical Flight Online Library.

Like in the deadly crash of TWA Flight 800 near here more than two decades later, expert eyewitnesses, including a Pan Am crew, gave investigators an amazingly detailed description of the plane's final moments. And as with Flight 800, floating debris was quickly snatched from the sea for examination. However, FBI tests of the wreckage found no evidence of explosives. But the earlier flight was indeed brought down by a bomb.

That investigation of the flight 22 years ago illustrates how crash inquiries sometimes hinge on a science not often associated with detective work -- metallurgy, the study of the structure, properties and behavior of metals.

The metallurgical lessons of the 1974 flight are being applied to the investigation of Flight 800, just as they were applied to the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Scotland in December 1988. The National Transportation Safety Board's metallurgical lab, headed by veteran metallurgist Michael Marx, is analyzing pieces of suspiciously twisted metal. Investigators are also combing seat cushions, carpeting and personal effects for metal fragments in search of clues to the crash that killed 230 people.

Investigators of the 1974 flight had only about 2,500 pounds of debris to work with, far less than has already been found from TWA's Flight 800. The earlier jet fell in much deeper water, and most of it was never recovered.

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November 12-20, 1995 Space Shuttle: AtlantisCrew: Cameron, Halsell, Hadfield, Ross, McArthur STS-74 marked the second docking of the U.S. space shuttle to Russian Space Station Mir and illustrated the international flavor of the space station effort. The shuttle crew included Chris Hadfield, the first Canadian mission specialist. Awaiting aboard Mir were two Russian cosmonauts and a German cosmonaut, along with Russian and European Space Agency research samples and equipment. The mission's primary payload was the Russian-built Docking Module (DM), designed to become a permanent extension on Mir to afford better clearances for Shuttle-Mir linkups. Unlike the STS-71 crew exchange flight, this second docking focused on delivery of equipment to Mir. Hadfield operated the shuttle's robot arm to lift the DM from the payload bay, rotate it to vertical, and move it to within five inches above the Shuttle Orbital Docking System, which would serve as the passageway between the two spacecraft. Cameron then fired downward steering jets to push Atlantis against the DM. On the next day, Atlantis caught up with and docked with Mir. Nearly 1,000 pounds of water were transferred to Mir and experiment samples -- including blood, urine and saliva -- were moved to the shuttle for return to Earth. The shuttle crew also delivered gifts, including Canadian maple sugar candies and the second guitar on Mir. Related Links: STS-74 (KSC Spaceflight Archive) Docking Module Shuttle Flights and Mir Increments STS-74: ODS Installation (video) STS-74: Docking (video) STS-74: Mir-Shuttle Tour (video) Timeline Rendezvous and Docking 041b061a72


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