Excerpts from Lauda News Conference on Crash of Boeing 767 With AM-Thailand Crash
Jun. 03, 1991
VIENNA, Austria (AP) _ Here, as translated from German by The Associated Press, are excerpts from the Niki Lauda news conference at which he alleged reverse thrust on one engine helped cause the crash of his Boeing 767 jet over Thailand.
Lauda recounts how he listened to the tape of the pilots in the cockpit.
''The plane takes off, makes a curve to the right, exactly the direction it should fly ...
''Then, the first officer, Josef Thurner, utters a (curse word)... . I assume that Captain Welch at that time was flying the plane manually. And then ... a warning light must have come on, because the checklist is taken out...
''They don't discuss the light itself but First Officer Thurner reads out: 'Additional system failure may cause an in-flight deployment. Expect normal reverse operation after landing.'
''We then looked into that and it must be the reverse isolation light. That is a light which comes on in the cockpit, and the Boeing checklist says exactly what the pilots did.
''To explain: it is an advisory light. ... That means the pilots have attention drawn to the fact that ... one of (the on-board) systems isn't working properly and the checklist is to be read. And when the checklist is read - which was done correctly - it says what I read out... . But the flight carries on quite normally.
''After that was read out, the captain says 'Look, the light is intermittent'... . He explains it by saying it could be moisture in one of the microswitches. Then, the checklist is put away again. The flight goes on, I'd say, for about a minute more.
''Then one hears First Officer Thurner. He says: 'It deployed. It deployed.'
''And now, it is important to explain this. Every passenger plane has reverse thrust. This reverse thrust is only used on the ground - after the plane lands... .
''What happened on this flight - this is my opinion after listening to the tape - is that the thrust reversal deployed for some reason in mid-air.... That means one (engine) thrust backward, the other forward.
''Then you can hear for about two seconds how the pilots are struggling with the plane.
''They couldn't say one word more to each other. One hears only in the breath of the pilots how they are trying somehow to get out of this situation. The situation lasts - unfortunately, or thank God - not very long, because about three seconds after the words ''It deployed' were spoken, one hears how the plane more or less breaks apart.
''We don't know if it was the right or left side that deployed... . You can then hear that the overspeed warning comes on - that is a tone you hear in the cockpit when the plane is flying too fast.
''And then, after three seconds you hear nothing more, because, due to the excess speed and the situation, the plane in my opinion then broke up into lots of different pieces, because it isn't built for that, and then crashed.
Q: ''Can one say that the light was falsely interpreted?''
A: ''It can't be falsely interpreted. The pilot is trained for that ... to take the checklist, and there exactly it's written.... And in there it's laid down exactly what to do, and exactly that they did. The light was correctly interpreted, and correctly acted upon.
Q: ''Mr. Lauda, that means the fault lies in the computer steering system. Can you confirm that?''
A: ''The plane, in my opinion, got two or three faults at once, or one after another, which then made the reverse thrust deploy in mid-air.... Why the fault occurred ... that one can't say at the moment. It will certainly take a longer time before one can try to analyze this from the remains of the engines.
Q: ''How do you explain that one engine was fully burned out?''
A: ''I cannot speculate ... (but) it is clear that what caused the accident has nothing whatsoever to do with fire. I am sure that neither of the engines burned out in the air.
Q: ''Do you know of another case?''
A: ''I have never heard of such an accident, and I can only say as a pilot that it is the worst thing that could happen to you. I am convinced that you simply can't deal with that, if you get such a problem ... when you're climbing.
''There are 348 planes of this type (Boeing 767-300) flying in the world, and I know of no case which would hint at this. That means, I'm convinced, that everything must be examined immediately.
''I am sure that the international authorities will order this.''