Fact Checking Nelson's "Doors Of Death" light aircraft near death experience

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IHAQ
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Fact Checking Nelson's "Doors Of Death" light aircraft near death experience

Post by IHAQ »

This story has been told and retold by Nelson over the years.
I remember vividly an experience I had as a passenger in a small two-propeller airplane. One of its engines suddenly burst open and caught on fire. The propeller of the flaming engine was starkly stilled. As we plummeted in a steep spiral dive toward the earth, I expected to die. Some of the passengers screamed in hysterical panic. Miraculously, the precipitous dive extinguished the flames. Then, by starting up the other engine, the pilot was able to stabilize the plane and bring us down safely.
https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/stu ... h?lang=eng
Thousands of members and invited guests of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Wednesday night learned from their prophet how to obtain a peace so profound it can keep them calm in the face of certain death.
Speaking in Spanish, Church President Russell M. Nelson told of the time several years ago when he and others aboard a small plane survived the explosion of one of the plane’s engines, the plane’s ensuing fire and sharp nosedive toward the likely death of all aboard, and then the pilot’s miraculous emergency landing in a field after the speed of the dive extinguished the fire.
https://newsroom.churchofjesuschrist.or ... ntina-2019

And he repeats the story this Easter
While President Russell M. Nelson was traveling to an assignment several years ago, the right engine of the plane he was on suddenly exploded. Flaming fuel spewed all over the right side, and the plane spiraled toward the earth.

“I expected to die,” said President Nelson, narrating the experience in a video message published Palm Sunday, March 28.

Miraculously, the dive extinguished the fire. The pilot restored power to the other engine and made a safe landing. And President Nelson made it to his assignment on time.
https://www.deseret.com/faith/2021/3/28 ... the-savior

You will notice the latest retelling is the most detailed and dramatic.
No dates or locations have ever been mentioned that I can find.
Has this story ever been corroborated by the other people on the plane?
Do both engines on a twin propellor airplane go out when one fails?
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Moksha
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Re: Fact Checking Nelson's "Doors Of Death" light aircraft near death experience

Post by Moksha »

This sounds like a job for Inspector Consiglieri of Radio Free Scotland Mormon Yard.
If he can't sleuth it, then nobody can!
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tapirrider
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Re: Fact Checking Nelson's "Doors Of Death" light aircraft near death experience

Post by tapirrider »

Never heard of it before 1980. Suspect he was inspired from this near-disaster in the movies:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WMhYl74vw2c
dastardly stem
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Re: Fact Checking Nelson's "Doors Of Death" light aircraft near death experience

Post by dastardly stem »

Love it. I can see it now. He's on the plane with others when suddenly an engine catches fire, and stops working. They plunge to their deaths, but Nelson feeling peace, keeps his eye on the burning engine and realizes the fire blowing in the wind, goes out. Then you looks to the other side and sees the other propeller start to move. "well, bygums...here I am peacefully accepting my fate of death, sitting amongst a pile of panicking heathens and that second engine starts up again. As we were being pulled out of the swirling nose dive, I suppose I accepted the peace of continuing to live, and the joy that erupted amongst the others as we landed safely shows, too, their lack of faith. They'd have been as peaceful as me if but had their lamps trimmed, being married in the temple and all".

"Uh....so was the pilot as faithful as you?"
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Tom
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Re: Fact Checking Nelson's "Doors Of Death" light aircraft near death experience

Post by Tom »

It was November 12, 1976. He was traveling from Salt Lake City to St. George to give the invocation at Rolfe Kerr's inauguration as president of Dixie College.

One version:
"I was in an airplane going from Salt Lake City to St. George to participate in a function at Dixie College. We were in one of those small commuter airplanes. There were about six passengers in it. The pilot had just announced that we were over the halfway point between Salt Lake City and St. George—we were past the point of no return. I thought, 'Well, that's a weird announcement to make.'

"Shortly after that, the engine on the right wing of the airplane burst open in flames, spewing oil all over the right side of the plane. The propeller became starkly still and the whole engine was on fire. We then went into a dive earthward. I assumed that my life was going to be terminated right then and there.

"The poor lady across the aisle from me was in absolute hysterics. She was right there where the flames were the brightest. But the pilot had turned off the ignition that fed more gas into the fire and had purposely been in a steep dive hoping that the flames might be extinguished, which was what happened. Then, with the power still left in the other propeller—which he then turned on just as we were about ready to have our moment of impact—he was able to glide us, following a highway, until we could make an emergency landing.
Spencer J. Condie, Russell M. Nelson: Father, Surgeon, Apostle, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2003.
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Re: Fact Checking Nelson's "Doors Of Death" light aircraft near death experience

Post by dastardly stem »

Tom wrote:
Mon Mar 29, 2021 5:02 pm
It was November 12, 1976. He was traveling from Salt Lake City to St. George to give the invocation at Rolfe Kerr's inauguration as president of Dixie College.

One version:
"I was in an airplane going from Salt Lake City to St. George to participate in a function at Dixie College. We were in one of those small commuter airplanes. There were about six passengers in it. The pilot had just announced that we were over the halfway point between Salt Lake City and St. George—we were past the point of no return. I thought, 'Well, that's a weird announcement to make.'

"Shortly after that, the engine on the right wing of the airplane burst open in flames, spewing oil all over the right side of the plane. The propeller became starkly still and the whole engine was on fire. We then went into a dive earthward. I assumed that my life was going to be terminated right then and there.

"The poor lady across the aisle from me was in absolute hysterics. She was right there where the flames were the brightest. But the pilot had turned off the ignition that fed more gas into the fire and had purposely been in a steep dive hoping that the flames might be extinguished, which was what happened. Then, with the power still left in the other propeller—which he then turned on just as we were about ready to have our moment of impact—he was able to glide us, following a highway, until we could make an emergency landing.
Spencer J. Condie, Russell M. Nelson: Father, Surgeon, Apostle, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2003.
"which he then turned on just as we were about ready to have our moment of impact"

What the???? So the pilot seeing the flames turned off the good engine, dove in spiral fashion purposefully to cause the wind to blow out the fire, held on to the spiraling dive until the last second, turned the good engine back on and just before impact managed to get the plane out of the dive in order to make an emergency landing?
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DrW
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Re: Fact Checking Nelson's "Doors Of Death" light aircraft near death experience

Post by DrW »

This saga seems intended as a faith promoting story and apparently gets more dramatic with the telling.
Here is how the pilot should have handled an engine fire on a piston engine twin (and probably did if everyone eventually walked away safely).

Loss of power in one engine (let's say Right engine) causes the aircraft to yaw to the right.
This requires immediate application of hard left rudder to maintain control of the aircraft.
Normally the pilot would also bank slightly to the left to assist the rudder authority.
This initial response must be well practiced, automatic and immediate for any twin pilot.

Then (and all this must happen very quickly as well):
For the Right Engine,
- Throttle closed,
- Mixture to idle cut-off
- Fuel selector off
- Electric fuel pump off
- Prop pitch to feather

Then, increase Left engine power as needed to maintain airspeed safely above stall speed. The aircraft should now be stabilized. A twin carrying six passengers would have a transponder, so ATC should be able to identify the aircraft on radar. One would normally call ATC to report an engine out and request a heading to the nearest airport where the plane could be safely landed. ATC should respond with the new heading, distance to the alternate airport, and the airport tower frequency for radio communication. ATC would also notify the alternate airport of the situation. (If the pilot has done his pre-flight planning properly, he would already know where his alternate is.)
____________________________________

Having practiced engine out procedures in a Piper Twin back in the day, I can report that:

- There is no spiraling dive to put out the fire. On an air cooled piston engine any fire will go out when there is no more fuel to burn. (On modern twins there may be a fire extinguisher in the engine nacelle that could be discharged if the fire persisted.)

- Operation of the right engine does not affect the left engine. The good (left) engine definitely does not shut down if the right engine fails. That's the whole point of a twin - fully independent operation of the engines with the ability to maintain altitude on one engine, if necessary.

- Once the Right engine is stabilized it should be a safe, if a somewhat stressful, flight to the nearest airport.
_____________
If the pilot in the plane in the story did end up "spiraling down", it was likely because he was not fast enough on the opposite rudder and momentarily lost control of the aircraft. If this happened, he would need to pull back power on the good engine, apply rudder in the opposite direction of the spin, push the nose over to maintain airspeed, and level the aircraft. To recover straight and level flight, the pilot would then bring back power on the Left engine while applying rudder as needed to maintain control the aircraft. Loss of altitude to accomplish all this should be no more than about 500 feet or so. So, no crash barely avoided by re-starting the good engine at the last possible moment.

However, one can see from the description above where some of the story elements may have come from. If the pilot did momentarily lose control, there would have been a steep bank and a sharp turn to the right (a spiral?). He would have pulled back power to recover the plane. So passengers may have assumed that the Left engine quit since neither engine was producing power.

Losing altitude to the point of a near crash may have been an exaggeration of the response to a momentary loss of control and the attendant altitude loss while the throttle was pulled back on the Left engine. If all this has had occurred at night, it could have been terrifying for everyone, especially if they were IFR in near total darkness and not following the car lights along I-15.
Last edited by DrW on Wed Mar 31, 2021 1:41 pm, edited 2 times in total.
Dr Exiled
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Re: Fact Checking Nelson's "Doors Of Death" light aircraft near death experience

Post by Dr Exiled »

That's all fine and good Dr. W. But we know the real story of angels flying through the sky to save the Lord's future no. one dude.
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Doctor CamNC4Me
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Re: Fact Checking Nelson's "Doors Of Death" light aircraft near death experience

Post by Doctor CamNC4Me »

No one is going to mention how the women are portrayed as hysterical and fearful, while Nelson the Man remained calm, cool, and collected? I always wonder what kind of subconcious lessons women (and girls) internalize with a story like that ...

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Everybody Wang Chung
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Re: Fact Checking Nelson's "Doors Of Death" light aircraft near death experience

Post by Everybody Wang Chung »

Doctor CamNC4Me wrote:
Mon Mar 29, 2021 11:00 pm
No one is going to mention how the women are portrayed as hysterical and fearful, while Nelson the Man remained calm, cool, and collected? I always wonder what kind of subconcious lessons women (and girls) internalize with a story like that ...

- Doc
Agreed. Why didn't Nelson just say "another passenger" instead of a "woman?" Good grief!
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