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Obama lucky to be alive

And he has skilled pilots to thank for his survival [1]:

Skillful piloting may have prevented a disaster for President Obama and his campaign last summer, a former federal safety official said Friday.

A report released by the National Transportation Safety Board indicates an inflated slide may have pressed against critical control cables, forcing the emergency landing of Obama’s campaign plane on July 7, 2008.

The slide inflated inside the tail cone of the campaign’s McDonnell Douglas MD-81 shortly after takeoff from Chicago’s Midway International Airport, the report said.

Investigators found evidence that the slide and a broken walkway railing inside the tail cone may have pressed against elevator cables that run the length of the plane. The cables are used to control whether the plane points up or down.

The plane’s flight crew struggled to level the aircraft’s nose, which continued to point upward after takeoff, but regained control by manipulating the control column and adjusting the trim on the plane’s tail, the report said. However, the flight crew noted the pitch control pressure required to level the airplane was higher than normal, the report said.

Former NTSB member John Goglia said the problem, had it continued, had the potential to cause a stall “at a critical point in flight.”

“It did have the potential of causing a catastrophic event,” Goglia said.
At the time of the incident, the pilot told passengers they were never in danger, and the Federal Aviation Administration said no emergency had been declared.

However, audiotapes released about a month later showed that after the pilot discovered he no longer had full control of the plane, he told an air traffic controller: “At this time we would like to declare an emergency, and also have CFR (crash equipment) standing by in St. Louis.”

Asked which runway he wanted to use, the pilot replied, “Well, which one is the longest?”

When you consider how long the average lifespan of a commercial aeroplane is compared to a consumer motor vehicle, and the fact that aeroplanes have a considerably larger chance of disaster should something go wrong (based on speed and height of travel, plus the higher number of people on board), it is absolutely amazing the amount of skill from pilots, engineers, air traffic controllers etc which goes in to generally keeping us all safe, and averting disaster when things do go wrong.

It’s just unfortunate that it takes somebody of a high profile to be involved in a close call for us to recognise the skill involved, and in this particular case, the considerable ability to stay calm under pressure, as the joking of the pilots proves.