At this point Flight Engineer Barry Townley-Freeman called out the chilling news that the No.4 engine had failed. The good news - if it can be described as such - was that the build-up of the problems was gradual, ensuring they were not immediately in
an extreme situation. Until the flight engineer broke the silence again:
'Engine failure No.2...'
'Three's gone ...'
'They've all gone!'
Yet the strange point about the situation
was that all the instruments appeared to be working and the autopilot remained in control. At 1344 hrs a Mayday message was sent out. Thanks to the autopilot working, Eric and his co-pilot had time to try and work out what could have caused a multiple failure. Was it electrical, fuel or icing?
At 28,000ft the cabin pressure warning horn sounded as the cabin climbed through 10,000ft
and the crew started to put on their oxygen masks. But as Senior First Officer Roger Greaves removed his oxygen mask from its stowage it fell apart in his hands. So, thought Eric, do I descend slowly and have the co-pilot suffer from anoxia, or increase the rate of descent until the aircraft was at a more survivable altitude?
He decided on the latter course, and began an emergency descent. By this time they had turned the aircraft back towards Jakarta and agreed that with a safety height of 10,500ft in
that area, they would turn back out to sea at 12,000ft.
However, the inertial navigation systems
were displaying gibberish and were useless in fixing their exact position. At 20,000ft he reduced the rate of descent - by which time the dextrous Roger had been able to put his oxygen mask back together again.
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