CHasing real answers
Something Niki couldn’t have foreseen was the terrible tragedy when one of his commercial aircraft crashed in Thailand in 1991. The Lauda Air disaster cost 223 people’s lives.
Niki was absolutely devastated. He knew all the crew and pilots. He went to the scene and attended funerals.
After the accident, he took Boeing on. He wanted the real answers for the families. Boeing said there had been pilot error, that the pilots could have recovered from the thrust reverser being activated, which was the cause of the crash. But Niki didn’t agree.
He got into a flight simulator and, something like 15 times, tried to replicate what might have gone wrong and what his colleagues on the flight deck might have tried to do.
He was a highly-accomplished pilot but it was clear that he couldn’t recover the aircraft, as Boeing had said could be done.
He said to them, ‘There’s no way my guys could have saved the aircraft’, and that the catastrophic malfunction was the fault of the manufacturer.
When Boeing refused to concede, he did something that I think only Niki Lauda would have done.
He said he would be prepared to fly with a crew provided by Boeing, deploy the thrust reverser mid-flight and they could show him what his pilots should have done.
Boeing backed out. He called their bluff. There’s not many people who would have had the balls to do that.