"An absolute page turner! A must read for those who love aviation!"
-Capt. David Dean. Capitol Air DC-10 (Ret) Author of The Long Ride Home.

lever full forward! Fire agent discharge! Check if the fire is out! Checklist!" I commanded. The words slid out effortlessly. This was what we'd learned to memorize. But now, there was a completely unfamiliar crisis to deal with. My brain felt numbed by the magnitude of what we were facing. We had two engines out on the left wing, and the inboard engine on the right wing was sick, putting out only 75 percent of maximum power.. With maximum continuous thrust (MCT) available only on Number Four engine and only 75 percent of max power on Number Three engine, it was impossible to maintain altitude. The outside air temperature over French Equatorial Africa that day at nineteen thousand feet was ninety degrees Fahrenheit. Number Three engine was now showing a high exhaust gas temperature (EGT) well into the red range of the instrument, and I wasn't sure how long the engine would survive at this power setting.

The DC-8 was descending at nine hundred feet per minute. We could remain airborne for less than twenty minutes more. Within sixteen minutes, we would be setting up for either an approach to an airport or an approach to our grave in the desert; it was as simple as that.

The airport at Accra from which we'd departed was out of the question; it was too far. I asked Jim to quickly locate an airport that was within fifteen minutes flying time from our present position. Within one minute, Jim gave me the name of an airport: Niamey, Niger, and he said it would be on a heading of 160 degrees magnetic, would be fifteen minutes away, and it was the only airport we could reach. That was the way it was in the cockpit of an airliner, especially when things were going very wrong. You had to be willing to trust your fellow crew member with your life; a one-man show would not work. Each of us was nearly overwhelmed with just doing our own specific job. If Jim was mistaken and the airport was twenty-one minutes away, we would probably not make it down alive.


Our flight was about thirty-eight minutes north of Accra when the fire bell went off and the bright-red master warning light illuminated on the glare shield in front of me. "Fire in Number-One engine!" John shouted. God, what now? I thought.

A couple of seconds later, there was a loud bang and then a tremendous vibration. "Number-One engine power lever idle, Number-One engine fuel shutoff lever off, Number-One engine fire shutoff 

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