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Birgenair Flight 301

TC-GEN parked at Berlin-Schönefeld International Airport in July 1995
Accident summary
Date 6 February 1996
Type Speed sensor defective, leading to autopilot and pilot errors
Site 26 km (14 nm) NE off Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic
Passengers 176
Crew 13
Injuries 0
Fatalities 189 (all)
Survivors 0
Aircraft type Boeing 757-225
Operator Birgenair (Alas Nacionales)
Tail number TC-GEN
Flight origin Gregorio Luperón International Airport, Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic
1st stopover Gander International Airport, Gander, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada
2nd stopover Berlin-Schönefeld International Airport, Berlin, Germany
Destination Frankfurt Airport, Frankfurt, Germany

Birgenair Flight 301 was a Puerto Plata-Gander-Berlin-Frankfurt flight chartered by Turkish-managed Birgenair partner Alas Nacionales ("National Wings"). On 6 February 1996 the Boeing 757-225 operating the route crashed shortly after take-off from Puerto Plata's Gregorio Luperón International Airport in the Dominican Republic.[1][2]

Contents

Passengers

The crew consisted of 11 Turks and 2 Dominicans. The passengers consisted mainly of Germans, along with a few Poles.[2] Most passengers had booked Caribbean package holidays with Öger Tours; Birgenair held 10% of Öger Tours.[3] In terms of passenger deaths Flight 301 has the highest death toll of any aviation accident involving a Boeing 757.[4]

Nationality Passengers Crew Total
 Germany 167 0 167
 Poland 9 0 9
 Turkey 0 11 11
 Dominican Republic 0 2 2
Total 176 13 189

Crash

During takeoff at 11:42 p.m, the captain found that his air speed indicator (ASI) was not working properly yet choose not to abort takeoff as proper procedures call for, although the co-pilot's ASI was functional. While the plane was climbing to 4,700 feet (1,400 m), the captain's ASI indicated 350 knots, which triggered an autopilot reaction, increasing the pitch-up attitude and reducing power to lower the plane's airspeed. Both pilots became confused when the co-pilot's ASI read 200 knots (decreasing) while getting rudder ratio and Mach airspeed advisory warnings and a stick-shaker warning. The pilots concluded that both ASIs were malfunctioning and disconnected the autopilot, which had received the captain's faulty ASI readings. They increased to full thrust. At 11:47 p.m., the Ground Proximity Warning System gave an audio warning, and eight seconds later the plane crashed into the Caribbean Sea. All 13 crew members and 176 passengers died.

Investigation and final report

The Dominican Republic government's Dirección General de Aeronáutica Civil (DGAC) investigated the accident and determined the following probable cause for the accident:

"The crew's failure to recognize the activation of the stick shaker as a warning of imminent entrance to the stall, and the failure of the crew to execute the procedures for recovery from the onset of loss of control."

Investigations later showed that the plane was actually travelling at 220 knots at the time. There is differing opinion however that the crew was not at fault and that due to an over-speed indication the pilot reversed throttle too quickly and did not have time to escape the imminent stall especially as the airliner was only at around 7,000 feet. The investigation concluded that one of three pitot tubes, used to measure airspeed, was blocked, although no tubes were recovered so investigators were unable to determine for certain what was blocking it. Investigators suspected that some kind of insect could have created a nest inside the pitot tube. The prime suspect is a species called the Black and yellow mud dauber wasp, well-known by pilots flying in the Dominican Republic. The aircraft had not flown in 25 days during which time the pitot tubes were not covered, giving the wasps an opportunity to build nests in the tubes.[5]

The Dominican Navy, the United States Coast Guard, and private Dominican boats scoured the waters. Coast Guard officers found coffee cans compressed into pieces of tin by the impact forces.[2][5]

Memorial for the victims of Birgenair Flight 301 in Puerto Plata
Memorial for the victims of Birgenair Flight 301 in Frankfurt's main cemetery

Aftermath

Later the same year, Aeroperú Flight 603, also involving a 757, suffered from a similar situation and crashed in the ocean off Peru.[6]

In 1996 Birgenair went bankrupt.[citation needed]

See also


References

  1. ^ Pope, Hugh. "Crash plane may not have been serviced." The Independent. Saturday 10 February 1996. Retrieved on 19 November 2009.
  2. ^ a b c "Rescuers call off search in plane crash." CNN. 8 February 1996. Retrieved on 19 November 2009.
  3. ^ Karacs, Imre. "Bonn grounds 757 as crash mystery grows." The Independent. Friday 9 February 1996. Retrieved on 19 November 2009.
  4. ^ Accident description at the Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved on 2006-07-21.
  5. ^ a b "The Plane That Wouldn't Talk", Mayday
  6. ^ "Flying Blind." Mayday.

External links

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