I recently watched a documentary about the Northwest Airlines Flight 85. The flight experienced a grave rudder malfunction when it was over the Bering Sea and had to turn back for an emergency landing in Anchorage, from which it was about two hours away.
I would have given a thousand dollars for a rearview mirror. The self-diagnostics of the airplane which normally are pretty good, in this case basically told us nothing. And the control position indicator was really the only indication that we had had that the rudder was malfunctioning. The tail could be coming apart for all we knew. And if it came apart, we probably would lose the airplane...We were just going to have to figure this out.
So, they had something wrong with their rudder, but couldn't figure it out. Wouldn't it have helped if they had the pilot of another plane come and see it?
Since they were heading for Anchorage, couldn't they or the air traffic control have called the Elmendorf Air Force Base and asked for a fighter jet to come and see the rudder of the Boeing 747-400? There would have been plenty of time, since they were some two hours away from Anchorage. You'd also think that each Air Force base has a fighter jet that's able to get to air at a moment's notice. A jet would've easily been able to meet them in the middle and take some photos of the rudder.
There were some 400 people aboard the NWA flight, so it's not like it was a minor issue. For all anyone knew, the plane could've crashed into the ocean at any moment. At least a fighter jet pilot would've been able to pinpoint the exact crash site for a search party later on. What am I missing?