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Publisher's Summary

"This is the kind of case the Board has never had to deal with - a head-on collision between the credibility of a flight crew versus the airworthiness of the aircraft." - NTSB Investigator-in-Charge Leslie Dean Kampschror.
On April 4, 1979, a Boeing 727 with 82 passengers and a crew of seven rolled over and plummeted from an altitude of 39,000 feet to within seconds of crashing, were it not for the crew's actions to save the plane. The cause of the unexplained dive was the subject of one of the longest NTSB investigations at that time.
While the crew's efforts to save TWA 841 were initially hailed as heroic, that all changed when safety inspectors found 21 minutes of the 30-minute cockpit voice recorder tape blank. The captain of the flight, Harvey "Hoot" Gibson, subsequently came under suspicion for deliberately erasing the tape in an effort to hide incriminating evidence. The voice recorder was never evaluated for any deficiencies.
From that moment on, the investigation was focused on the crew to the exclusion of all other evidence. It was an investigation based on rumors, innuendos, and speculation. Eventually the NTSB, despite sworn testimony to the contrary, blamed the crew for the incident by having improperly manipulated the controls, leading to the dive.
This is the story of an NTSB investigation gone awry, and one pilot's decades-long battle to clear his name.
©2016 Emilio Corsetti III (P)2016 Emilio Corsetti III
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

By Steve H. Caldwell on 09-20-16

Unbelievable what they had to deal with.

An amazing true story, where the preconceived outcome was pushed over the actual provable facts, so typical of government bureaucrats. Damn the consequences to these men's lives, careers and reputations, because at no time was Boeing and their stooges in the government ever going to let them take any of the heat for this. Having spent years in Aviation myself, The narrative of pilot error over mechanical failure seems to be the first thing pushed, as it was in this case. Amazing detail really sell this books point. The narration by Fred Filbrich is very technical and understandable, if not particularly dynamic. Still very listenable, just don't go in expecting Luke Daniels or Michael Kramer.

I was given a copy of this book free of charge by the Author in exchange for an honest review through Audiobook Boom.

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By John Arnott on 09-14-16

The dangers in looking for proof, not causes.

What other book might you compare Scapegoat to and why?

"The Control of Nature" by John McPhee describes several attempts to control nature. The efforts of the Army Corps of Engineers to channel the Mississippi with levees and such is shown as an example of single-mindedness in how they have not been able to fully succeed. In "Scapegoat", we see another government entity, the NTSB, latch onto a theory for the cause of a near-fatal aviation incident and end up doing metaphorical back flips attempting to justify the theory rather than examine all evidence with an open mind. While the flood-control projects would be impossible to abandon now, the insistence on a finding of crew error in the near crash was correctable and in itself left the true cause unaddressed and still presenting danger to future flights.

Any additional comments?

Even though the plane came within seconds of crashing, economic forces rushed it through repairs and back into service, thereby losing the opportunity for a complete failure analysis. This misstep was compounded by the early assumption that the crew had done something to precipitate the incident and the dogged refusal of the investigating team to question that assumption. The title of the book, Scapegoat, and its relation of the toll those accusations had on the pilot may seem the main theme, but I found the subtext more important: money (get that plane back in the air) and politics (positioning by the investigators) trumped the need for finding the truth.

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