This got lost in the news a bit, for a bunch of reasons. Perhaps the biggest reason was that not one of the 116 people aboard the flight was seriously injured, although the accident did occur two years ago, as well. AvWeb has a great article on it, which I highly recommend.

Mark Radloff and Andreas Gruseus were flying by the book - until they quickly realized that the book was wrong for their situation. They aborted the takeoff past V1 - the speed at which the book says you continue the takeoff no matter what, because if you abort at that point, you *will* go off the end of the runway. Why did they do it? Because “it wasn’t flying”. And it would not have flown. Take a close look at the elevators (2 - left and right) in the photo of the aircraft:

Photo: The Boeing Company, from NTSB, report via AvWeb

The right elevator (yes, they’re separate) was jammed in the full nose down position. I recommend reading the article by Rick Durden linked above, but the bottom line was that there wasn’t a way for the pilots to know that.

While it may be easy to think that ‘well the plane wasn’t flying so of course they aborted’, the quick reaction of the crew made all the difference. When the pilot flying called ‘Abort’, the aircraft was traveling at about 187 mph across the ground- and was accelerating. Just 1 more second, and they would be 275 feet down the runway, at a higher speed. Maybe they hit the elevated road at 80 or 100 knots instead of 40 knots. And then we would be talking about the University of Michigan basketball tragedy right now during March Madness - that’s who was on board the flight.

All because a flight crew called upon their years of training by the book, and knew in an instant that the book was only *almost* always right.


If you really want to geek out, here’s the full report: