Did a 1968 plane involved in a crash ever fly again?

November 20, 2009 7:03:27 PM PST
In November 1968, a DC-8 coming into SFO from Tokyo became the first commercial aircraft ever to survive an unplanned landing on water. It set down short of the runway, without anyone being injured. Here is the story of that plane and three men who were there that day.

At SFO, it happens all day, every day, come rain or shine -- that final phase of flight known as a safe landing. Most of these planes never make headlines, but then there was one, the Bay Area had almost forgotten.

"It was an uneventful flight from Tokyo, Japan to San Francisco, except for the last five minutes," says ABC7 News Aviation Consultant Ron Wilson.

On November 22, 1968, Flight 2 from Tokyo, approached San Francisco Airport, except the sky was not clear that morning.

It was an overcast day.

The landing took place in the bay, not on the runway. The runway was 17,500 feet short, or three miles, which was a mistake.

All of a sudden the co-pilot screamed "Water, Water! Pull up!" says Wilson.

Wilson remembers the plane hit the water at 137 knots and came to rest three quarters of a mile off Coyote Point.

When asked what that would that feel like, United Airlines pilot Russ Willsher replied, "Like hitting the brakes really hard on a freeway."

In 1968, Willsher was 10 years old. He was just another gawker staring at the plane and marveling how 96 passengers disembarked via emergency rafts, hardly getting their feet wet.

"I remember wondering how a plane so far out on the water isn't sinking?" said Willsher.

It didn't sink because it sat in only seven feet of water, with the landing gear down. Authorities put it on a barge and towed it to the United Airlines maintenance hangar at SFO.

That is where supervisor Jack Hersh spent four months and $4 million repairing structures and salt water damage. He was asked if the plane was as good as new and he replied "Better."

As for the pilot, Captain Kohei Asoh took the blame for miss-setting his instruments and appeared before Congress. In fact, his words were more than extremely direct.

Wilson recalls Asoh said "Well as you Americans might say, I....[expletive up]. He said that before Congress and Congress said 'No further questions.'"


Load Comments