The Commercial Airline That Recovered From a 30,000-Foot Dive

On Feb. 9, 1985, a China Airlines Boeing 747 was performing its daily non-stop flight from Taipei-Chiang Kai Shek International Airport to LAX in Los Angeles when something went wrong. While cruising over the Pacific Ocean at 41,000 feet, 348 nautical miles northwest of San Francisco, the aircraft suddenly lost power to the number 4 engine. The plane suddenly rolled onto its back, plunging 30,000 feet towards the ocean in 2½ minutes at an acceleration of 5 Gs. The plane was disoriented and Captain Min-Yuan Ho was unable to trust the instruments, believing they may be showing false readings. It wasn't until the plane descended below the clouds that Ho had any visual references to go by. Now, with the plane at 11,000 feet, Ho could orient himself and bring the aircraft under control. After leveling out, they began to climb with the three remaining engines supplying thrust. They also informed Air Traffic Control that everything was OK and that they were continuing on to LAX. It was then that they noticed that the inboard landing gear was down and that one of the plane's hydraulic systems was empty. Because of the extra drag, they wouldn't have enough fuel to reach LAX, so they diverted to San Francisco International Airport. The aircraft was able to land and the passengers and crew left the plane with no injuries. The NTSB later concluded that Captain Ho had over-relied on the autopilot.