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All Four Engines Have Failed by Betty Tootell in demand after volcanic ash cloud

all-four-engines-have-failed2Over the past seven days, the most searched for book on AbeBooks.co.uk has been All Four Engines Have Failed: True and Triumphant Story of Flight BA 009 and the Jakarta Incident by Betty Tootell.

Never heard of it? That’s not surprising considering the book has been out-of-print for years. BA Flight 9 went from London Heathrow to Auckland, stopping in Bombay, Madras, Kuala Lumpur, Perth, and Melbourne along the way.

However, the plane flew through a cloud of volcanic ash from the eruption of Mount Galunggung (about 100 miles south-east of Jakarta, Indonesia) and all four engines cut out after smoke had filled the passenger cabin.

While Betty Tootell and the other passengers were praying for their lives and scrawling goodbye notes to loved ones, the crew entered the plane into a calculated glide in order to get the aircraft as close to Jakarta airport as possible. They believed they could glide for around 90 miles.

The crew of the Boeing 747 managed to restart the engines of the plunging/gliding aircraft just in time to avoid a mountain range, but as they approached the airport they were ununable to see the runway due to a St Elmo’s Fire effect on their window screen (the ash had sandblasted the glass). They landed using instruments alone.

Apparently, the plane has a place in the Guinness Book of Records for completing the longest glide for a non-gliding aircraft. Betty went on to marry one of her fellow passengers, and the crew and passengers formed the Galunggung Gliding Club in order to remain in contact.

We only have half a dozen copies of this book left now after the air traffic chaos caused by the Icelandic volcanic ash cloud in recent days reminded lots of people about this book from 1985. Clearly, readers are intrigued about what people do when they are 1) facing death 2) battling to avoid death, and 3) realise they have cheated death.

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