A few days after Christmas in 1978, United Airlines Flight 173 ran into trouble on its descent into Portland, Oregon. The landing gear should have descended smoothly and an indicator light blinked on to indicate all was secure. Instead, there was a loud bang and no light.

While the crew tried to figure out whether the landing gear was in position or not, the aircraft circled and circled. The engineer mentioned that fuel was running low, but didn’t manage to muster enough forcefulness to convey the urgency to the captain, who was focused on the landing gear.

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