Saturday, July 6, 2013

ReVisioning the 1992 Biljmer Plane Crash, Amsterdam (& the Asiana Crash at SFO)

This morning, as I was outside in the garden, I thought I heard or felt something—more like a percussion than a sound—and I said to myself, Jeez, it feels like a bomb just went off—or a plane crash. I live near the Oakland Airport which is across the bay from the San Francisco airport. I laughed at my silliness and chalked it up to an overactive imagination.

But I was uneasy, sensing that some disaster had occurred. I came inside to check the news only to find my Twitter feed going crazy.

What I saw on my screen: a tweet from Samsung executive, David Eun: "I just crash landed at SFO. Tail ripped off. Most everyone seems fine. I'm ok. Surreal..." And he posted a photo of the crippled jet. Asiana Airline accident today at SFOOh no! So I wasn't imagining things.

There were 290 to 350 passengers on board from Seoul to SFO. Someone said: it's a hard landing, no landing gear. Another eye-witness said the plane struck the seawall, then the tail ripped off, and it cartwheeled off Ramp 28. (I think it just slid off the tarmac). The fuselage also caught fire as people fled the plane, sliding down the inflatable emergency ramps. Suitcases were scattered everywhere like flotsam. Or maybe it was a herd of Goats R Us weed-whacker goats rubbernecking.

As I followed the grisly news reports, an image I thought I had forgotten, came to mind. Another plane crash, from long ago, in another country. So, I let my fingers do some web walking as I waited for the news to unfold.

In 1992, I witnessed an Israeli cargo airplane crash in Amsterdam. An El Al Boeing 747 plane circling from Schiphol Airport was flying unusually low over the IJsselmeer, when I heard a pop overhead, and then a big splash right next to me.
We walked along the Durgerdam, admiring the sunset. —Wiki

My friend Vinz said we were just outside the village near the Durgerdam bus stop. Durgerdam is 7 km east of Dam Square. We were walking along the dyke of the IJsselmeer, admiring the colors on the water, the October sunset in North Holland. Everything on fire. Beauty everywhere.

We were walking on that peninsula above the red dot at Durgerdam —Wiki

I thought the splash I heard was an improbable seal or an even more unlikely whale breaching—not even remotely possible in the artificial enclosed lake, that is the IJssel, which is a branch, or tributary of the Rhine. I laughed at my foolish notion. OK, one helluva big fish, then.

But as the events unfolded, I quickly put it together that the pop I heard was the El Al Boeing 747 plane's right wing engine exploding, and the splash—the engine falling into the water. That was awfully close, that engine could've fallen on us, had the plane been over land (as the flight map I posted below suggests—but it's wrong). 

Then, we watched, stunned, as the eastbound plane veered hard right over land and plowed into two high rise buildings of BijlmerThe fireball as it struck the apartments was like an atomic blast—we could hear and feel it from miles away. I took photos of the fireball but I couldn't override the automatic camera flash—and so, I got nothing on film.  

We made our way back to the crash site. The Boeing 747 crashed into the Bijlmermeer, near the Elsrijkdreef- Bijlmerdreef T-intersectionI remember looking up in a linden tree to see an airplane seatbelt, a melted Barbie doll, and fuel dripping from the leaves like rain. I took more photos and there was no way home but to walk. All transport from Biljmer was cut off. All busses were being used as ambulances.

Why did the El Al pilot bank 90° right, into the housing project instead of flying over the IJsselmeer (formerly the Zuiderzee) where he could've crash-landed on the water? Surely the pilot knew he was in trouble long before he reached land.

At 6:35 pm, the first officer radioed to ATC: "Going down, #1862, going down, going down, copy, going down." In the background, the captain was heard instructing the first officer in Hebrew to raise the flaps and lower the landing gear. —Bijlmerramp, Wiki

They say 48 people died a the Bijlmerramp—but we saw busloads of bodies leaving. There was a huge population of undocumented illegal immigrants living there as well—and everyone was at home in time for Sunday dinner.

We were walking along the shore to the north of the final green line. Pilot was flying over the water when the right engine fell off. He banked and turned. Everything in slo-mo. This map is wrong, as we were near Durgerdam, walking east, the plane passed me on the right, not the left side.

Then came the cover-up. What was in the plane: fertilizer, petro-, and bio-chemicals? Bomb fixings? No news, no answers anywhere. I was interviewed by Amsterdam Underground Radio—the reporter was positive it was some sort of conspiracy but I didn't feed the beast of paranoia. Merely reported what I saw, and deduced. Too well trained by my editor, Nick Valentine, to let the crazed reporter lead me.

From GoogleEarth

Today's crash at SFO brought the memory of the Biljmer crash back in startling clarity. Another Boeing. Two people have been confirmed dead & at least 130 injured, with 41 in critical condition. Such a tragedy. Amazing that so many survived. We should not be witnessing things like this. It brings back the vivid images of 9/11 as well. The things we can never erase form our minds, leaving us shellshocked.

Will the final verdict also be metal fatigue as well? Or pilot error? Or both? My cousin is a mechanic for United a tSFO. Maybe we'll get another picture from the mechanics who will be working on the plane. I'll post later, if we do. Meanwhile, if you landed at this blog in error, I've posted some Asiana links below.

SOME LINKS for Asiana Airlines crash —I'm 2nd guessing people are searching for links to the Asiana Airlines crash. Let me know if this is what you were searching for? (These are from my Facebook page—I'm also posting links here because I'm getting a lot of hits on this blog entry. Not what I was expecting.)
  • Eyewitness to Asiana Airlines crash: "Plane came in at a bad angle, flipped, exploded." Plane-spotter witness on CNN said Boeing 777 crashed, 'cart-wheeled', then burst into flames. SFO shut down indefinitely. Tons of planes in holding patterns over SFO. Asiana 777 crashes at San Francisco airport —
  • Raw helicopter footage of the wreck—note that it's not on the tarmac. All the suitcases, like sand pebbles surrounding the plane. —
  • Good photo series—from SF Gate. Amy Tan posted on FB: "It's a Korean airline. The flight originated in Shanghai. More than half on board were Chinese. And there were Korean and American passengers as well. I've taken that airline numerous times and it has always had a good reputation." Two reported dead, 73-130 injured (count still rising—60 unaccounted for) according to San Francisco Fire Dept There were 290 to 350 passengers were on board. About 100 survivors are being held in quarantine. Plane came in nose too high on runway 28, the tail came off.  There is a need at all Bay Area hospitals for Korean translators. Someone posted: Asiana Flight 214, OZ214 is also UA7989 (United) and also US5204 (US Airways)
final approach

Note bene: so odd for me to write about something that happened so long ago, but I think that it deeply affected me. Sort of like having a bit of Gulf War Syndrome being replayed in the here and now.

I noted that the Wiki site mentions there was a lot of fallout from the Bijlmerramp. (This information was not available until very recently—people suspected a cover-up, a conspiracy). Read the Bijlmerramp Wiki article. I'm just glad the informations's now on the web.

I dreamed much of the Biljmir accident the night before it happened. I wrote it down in my journal and was going over it ad nauseum as I walked along the shore at sunset with my Dutch friend Vinz—who was tired of hearing about it—when the first plane engine blew. But I was relentless. Then, as events fell into place, the dream was suddenly very important. Instructions from the future? You might well ask why did we go to the crash site? We could have just gone home. Because it was important for us to bear witness. Camera in hand.

Then there's the unasked question: what is it with my dreams and plane crashes, anyway? I have some weird preternatural sixth sense. Not even something I want to admit to, let alone, bear witness to. Go away, now. Did I actually feel the percussion of the Asiana Boeing 777 today? Or was it something else? A sort of sixth-sense plane radar? 

I had a similar experience with the 1986 Challenger disaster—I was standing in the Mark West School parking lot when I looked up in the sky and saw the Challenger blow up—but I'm pretty sure I didn't actually see it (Cape Canaveral, Florida) from Santa Rosa (or could I see it at 10 miles up or 52,800 feet. I'd feel better if I knew it was physically possible. Any rocket scientists out there?

I can see it in my mind's eye. Will it triangulate?
Trajectory: 10 miles up (52,800 feet)
plus distance from Florida to west coast 2400 air miles = (240,000 feet)
plus earth's curvature (approximately 8 inches per mile).
(Earth's radius is approx. 3965 miles, curvature is 7.98 inches per mile.)
 (8" / 240,000") = 30,000 inches  /12 = 2500 miles. (or is it 30,000 miles?) Aaaagh! That's as far as I can get.  But then I suck at math. And no way to double-check the answer.

I shuddered with dread, wondering what it was that I thought I saw in the sky after class, and I went inside, when I heard the news. We all held such high hopes for Christa McAuliffe, the first teacher in space. That 74-second ride, 10 miles high in the sky, then, that failed O-ring—supposedly made in Santa Rosa—at Ockley, where my boyfriend Michael Fulton was working. Ah, those strange degrees of separation, brining us ever closer together.

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