It was a sunny day in Dayuan, Taoyuan, Taiwan. Airport workers had fueled the plane and the pilots were ready to enter the Boeing 737 to fly it to Naha Airport, Japan. The rest of the crew and the passengers arrived later. After some time when all the passengers were present and all the luggage was loaded in the pilots began taxiing the airplane to the runway. The plane rook off without having any problems or showing any abnormalities. The plane began heading towards Naha Airport. It was not a very long flight as it took only a couple of hours. The pilots prepared the plane for landing as the plane was nearly there. The descent and the landing went very smooth. There were still no abnormalities spotted by the pilots or the airport workers.
Everything went well and the pilots were taxiing the plane towards a parking place in Naha Airport. The pilots turned off the plane and waited for every passenger to leave the aircraft first. Everything was still normal, pilots are supposed to wait for the passengers go leave first. Suddenly the passengers saw the wings bursting into flames before they left. The passengers were evacuated very fast thanks to the fast and professional work by the flight attendants. The pilots also evacuated. One of the two pilots evacuated by climbing off a rope. The other one tried to do that too, but he fell on the ground while trying it because of an explosion. A flight attendant was also trying to leave but at the moment of the explosion the flight attendant fell on her face. She survived to tell the tale though. Four people in total were injured. Two were sent to a hospital to check if they are okay. The luggages of all the passengers burned with the wreckage. The passengers got a compensation of up to a couple of hundred Dollars. Apart from the fact that China Airlines lost a valuable plane from its fleet, the accident itself did not have much impact on China Airlines at all. China Airlines even continued to use the flight number ‘120’. Which is unusual after an accident.
Because the accident could have ended up dramatically there was an elaborate investigation. The investigators spoke with the airport workers, the pilots and listened to the audio recordings from the black boxes. They did not see anything abnormal. So their conclusion was that the plane did not have any problems, at least not until it touched down, started taxiing and then caught fire. After further investigation the investigators concluded that a small bolt of a couple of centimeters in diameter had punctured the kerosene tanks and had let kerosene to leak on the glowing engines. The bolt came from the right wing. Fire needs three things to burn: fuel, heat and oxygen. The fuel was the kerosene the heat was from the glowing engines and the oxygen was from the air. The fire spread to the whole plane. After the fire was extinguished by the fire brigade the plane was completely destroyed; the Boeing 737 was in half a dozen pieces.
It’s true, nobody died. The pilots, crew, airport workers and flight attendants had a lot of luck. If the bolt had fallen of the wing during takeoff, then somebody would have died almost certainly. Many planes caught fire during takeoff. Some during takeoff, some in mid air and some during landing. Especially when planes catch fire during takeoff and landing the crashes which often occur tend to be deadlier. Although nobody died, it is necessary to solve the problems before they cause fatal accidents.
The passengers must have thought that they had arrived safely without any problems and that they were as safe from the dangers of flying as they could be. But no, they weren’t as safe from the dangers of flying as they could be. On the contrary, they were going to be in some serious danger.
I think that it is really remarkable how well and professional the crew of the plane acted. If they did not, then maybe China Airlines Flight 120 would have been a fatal one. I also think that this crash symbolizes the fact that something very small can have very big influence.
If you want to, here you can read about this accident on Wikipedia.