The Deadly Riddle Of The 737

BRITISH OFFICIALS MAY unearth a clue to a pair of mysterious and deadly crashes of Boeing 737-200s in the U.S. They're investigating why a British Airways 737-200, on a test flight without passengers, started to roll 20 degrees about every three seconds for several minutes at 20,000 feet. Pilots righted the jet and landed it safely at Gatwick Airport outside London. The Oct. 22 incident shares some similarities to the U.S. tragedies.

Boeing and BA say no links have been established between the British mishap and the two U.S. crashes. But Britain's Aircraft Accident Investigations Branch is giving the probe its highest priority.

The British pilots' success may be because they were flying high enough to regain control. In 1991, a United Airlines 737 in the process of landing flipped over and crashed outside Colorado Springs, Colo., killing all 25 aboard. In September, 1994, all 132 passengers died when a USAir 737 banked to the left and nose-dived into a hillside outside Pittsburgh during its landing approach. Puzzled American officials have made numerous tests, simulating these flights to pinpoint possible causes for the 737 disasters, such as turbulence from another jetliner's wake.

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