Airline accidents for the first half of 2008

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Global figures for airline fatalaccidents in the first six months of this year have soared well above the all-time low recorded in the same period of 2007.

The number of crew and passenger deaths, however, has almost halved compared with January-June 2007, because of far fewer casualties per accident, with many of the crashes involving pure freighters. There have also been some messy freighter fleet hull losses this year that did not feature in the fatal accidents list because the crews survived. Kalitta, for example, has written off two of its Boeing 747-200Fs in the last couple of months, but since the second of them occurred in July it does not appear in the first six months' listing.

The total number of fatal airline accidents - all commercial categories - to 30 June is 18 compared with 11 at the same point last year, and the respective figures for fatalities are 175 compared with 312. Regionally, Africa and Latin America recorded the highest numbers of fatal accidents with five each.

The worst accidents so far have been the 21 February crash of a Santa Barbara Airlines ATR 42-300 in Venezuela that killed all 46 people on board, and the 10 June Sudan Airways Airbus A310-300 accident at Khartoum in which 30 of the 225 people on board died. Since the latter date Sudan has seen two more fatal accidents within its borders, both involving Soviet-era freighters. Sudan has now banned all Antonov and Ilyushin aircraft manufactured in that period, joining Nigeria and Uganda, which had already done so.

The fact that, in the past two years, the focus on runway safety has adjusted to include runway excursions as well as incursions has again been proven a valid judgement. Two of the fatal accidents so far this year come into the former category, and five of the significant non-fatal accidents. Among incidents that caused minor or no damage (not listed here), the number of runway overruns and other excursions that have been reported worldwide is far higher and, as the Flight Safety Foundation has pointed out, most if not all of them were preventable.

Near-Disaster

Among the significant non-fatal accidents, the British Airways Boeing 777 forced landing short of the runway at London Heathrow is the event that generated the most intense global industry interest. It involved an airline with one of the best safety records and an aircraft type of which the same can be said, yet it was an accident that came within a whisker of being a disaster in the highly populous area surrounding the world's busiest international hub airport. Meanwhile, despite the efforts of the UK Air Accidents Investigation Branch, Boeing, Rolls-Royce and the US National Transportation Safety Board to determine what prevented the engines responding to demands for increased power, no advice has been offered to 777 operators since the event.

Crews and operators feel that there is a an uncomfortable knowledge vacuum here, even if there has only been one such incident in the more than 600,000 cycles the world's 777 fleet has notched up. The answer to many questions is being sought, but one of them is this: was it a 777 issue, or could the same symptoms have affected any modern type?

Accidents and Incidents: Jan - June 2008

Fatal accidents: scheduled passenger flights

15 April Hewa Bora McDonnell Douglas DC-9-50 (9Q-CHN) Goma, DR Congo -/3 8/86 T/O

The aircraft failed to take off and overran the runway into a residential area, killing about 40 people on the ground. Unofficial reports suggest the aircraft suffered a loss of power from one or both engines.

30 May TACA Airbus A320-200 (EI-TAF) Tegucigalpa airport, Honduras 1/2 6/118 L

The crew abandoned a procedural approach to Runway 20 citing low cloud, and requested an approach to the runway's reciprocal 02. But 02 has a displaced threshold, the runway was wet, and the change meant there was a slight tailwind on the approach. The available landing run was 1,650m. The aircraft overran the runway end, crossed the airport boundary and a road and hit an embankment, suffering serious damage. The unobstructed overrun beyond the threshold of runway 20 is only 15m.

10 June Sudan Airways Airbus A310-300 (ST-ATN) Khartoum airport, Sudan ?/30? 11/214 L

The aircraft, which had set off from Damascus, Syria bound for Khartoum, had to divert to Port Sudan because of stormy weather. The accident happened when the aircraft, inbound to Khartoum from Port Sudan, landed in a storm and caught fire. A total of about 30 people on board died.

Fatal accidents: non-scheduled passenger flights

2 May Southern Sudan Air Beech 1900C (5Y-FLX) Nr Rumbek airport, Sudan 2/19 2/19 AA

The aircraft was chartered to carry local politicians from Wau to Juba via Rumbek. Near Rumbek the aircraft suffered total power loss on both engines and the aircraft crashed.

Fatal accidents: Commuter and regional airlines

4 January Transaven Let L-410 (YV2081) Offshore Venezuela 2/12 2/12 ER

Travelling between the Los Roques islands and Caracas, Venezuela, the pilot reported that both engines had failed. The aircraft was forced to ditch.

21 February Santa Barbara Airlines ATR 42-300 (YV-1449) Nr Merida, Venezuela 3/43 3/43 C

The aircraft hit high ground at 13,700ft not long after departure from Merida Alberto Carnevalli airport with Caracas as its intended destination.

3 April Blue Wing Airlines Antonov An-28 (PZ-TSO) Nr Lawa Antino, Surinam 2/17 2/17 C

The aircraft appeared to be carrying out a go-around following an approach to Lawa Antino airport when it hit high ground.

7 June Patagonia Airlines Cessna 208B Caravan (CC-CTR) Nr La Junta, southern Chile 1/- 1/9 AA

The aircraft, flying from Puerto Montt to La Junta, went missing and was not located for three days. It was found about 20km from La Junta airport among trees on a mountain slope. All the passengers had survived.

Fatal accidents: non-passenger flights

14 January Alpine Air Beech 1900C (N410UB) Offshore Kauai, Hawaii 1 1 RA

The aircraft, inbound from Honolulu, hit the water surface about 12km offshore. It was approaching Lihue airport's Runway 35 in the pre-dawn darkness, but with good visibility and all the airport's approach lights and PAPIs operational, according to the airport operator.

26 January Dirgantara Air Services Casa Nurtanio CN212 (PK-VSE) Nr Long Ampung, Indonesia 3 3 AA

The aircraft wreckage was found not far from its destination at Long Ampung.

9 April Avtex Air Services Swearingen Metro III (VH-OZA) Offshore Sydney, Australia 1 1 C

After take-off from Sydney Kingsford-Smith airport, ATC queried a turn that was different to the cleared departure, and the pilot reported technical problems. The aircraft crashed into the sea.

11 April Kata Air Transport Antonov An-32B (ST-AZL) Chisinau airport, Moldova 8 8 L

The aircraft departed for Antalya, Turkey, en route to its Sudan base, but turned back soon after take-off because the transponder had failed. During the landing at Chisinau the aircraft's wing hit the structure of a navigation aid on the airfield, went out of control, crashed and caught fire.

23 May Alpine Aviation Beech 1900C (N195GA) Billings, Montana, USA 1 1 c

Shortly after take-off the aircraft, loaded with 2,250kg cargo, crashed into buildings outside the airport.

26 May Moscovia Airlines Antonov An-12 (RA-12957) Nr Chelyabinsk, Russia 9 9 C

The aircraft was positioning back to Perm from Chelyabinsk having delivered cargo there. Reports say that within 8min of take-off the crew reported smoke on board and that they were returning to land. The aircraft crashed before reaching the airport.

15 June China Flying Dragon Harbin Y12 (B-38741) 3 4 ER

Crashed into high ground during a survey flight.

18 June Wiggins Airways DHC-6 Twin Otter 100 (N656WA) Hyannis airport, Massachussetts, USA 1 1 C

The aircraft rolled dramatically at a height of about 200ft after take-off, according to airline witnesses.

27 June Juba Air Cargo Antonov An-12 (ST-ARN) Nr Malakal, Sudan 7 8 ER

The aircraft was en route from Khartoum to Juba when it crashed near Malakal, about 600km south of Khartoum. Thunderstorms had been reported in the area at the time. Juba lost another An-12 (ST-JUA) in an accident on 8 November last year. It occurred when the crew, having reported an engine failure, attempted to return to Khartoum.

30 June Ababeel Aviation Ilyushin Il-76 (ST-WTB) Khartoum airport, Sudan 4 4 C

The aircraft crashed about 1km from the airport shortly after take-off carrying 36t of cargo. Witnesses reported seeing an engine on fire, and the aircraft was totally destroyed in the crash and the consequent fire.

Significant non-fatal accidents

2 January Iran Air Fokker 100 (EP-IDB) Teheran Mehrabad airport, Iran -/- 6/53 TO

The aircraft slewed off the runway during take-off in light snow and was destroyed by impact and fire. The intended destination was Shiraz.

7 January Qantas Boeing 747-400 (VH-OJM) Nr Bangkok airport, Thailand -/- ?/344 RA

The aircraft suffered the loss of some flight instruments during its approach, but landed safely. Australian investigators have since determined that a water leak in the forward galley had penetrated the avionics bay through a crack in the glassfibre drip-shield that is supposed to protect the bay from water ingress. It caused the loss of several electrical busbars supplying systems and instruments.

17 January British Airways Boeing 777-200ER (G-YMMM) London Heathrow airport, UK -/1 16/136 RA

Both engines failed to respond to an autothrottle demand for a power increase as the aircraft passed through about 700ft on its final approach. They also failed to respond to a manual demand for increased power, but the engines did not stop running in flight. The crew were forced to land the aircraft on grass just inside the airfield boundary 350m short of runway 27L threshold. It slid to rest with its gear separated, but otherwise largely intact. There was no fire. The investigators have ruled out fuel exhaustion, fuel contamination, physical obstruction in the fuel supply lines or filters, or fuel pump failure. There is no sign of any failure of the engines or their control units. The study continues.

1 February Lloyd Aero Boliviano Boeing 727-200 (CP-2429) Nr Trinidad airport, Bolivia -/- 8/151 L

The crew had to force-land the aircraft 5km short of Trinidad's main runway, and the aircraft was extensively damaged except for the fuselage. The flight plan was from La Paz to Cobija in northern Bolivia, but the aircraft was forced to divert to Trinidad - not to its primary alternate, Rio Branco, Brazil - because of bad weather. Fuel exhaustion is suspected.

14 February Belavia Bombardier CRJ100 (EW-101PJ) Yerevan Zvartnots airport, Armenia ?/? 3/18 TO

The aircraft, departing for Minsk in Belarus, flipped over on its back during take-off at 04:19 local time, but everyone survived. The same thing happened to a corporate CRJ100 on 13 February 2007 at Moscow Vnukovo. In both cases the weather was cold and snowy.

19 February Air Bagan ATR72 (XY-AIE) Putao airport, Myanmar 2/3 57 TO

The aircraft suffered engine failure so the crew abandoned the take-off. The aircraft overran the runway end by about 100m, running up a bank which caused the fuselage to break in two.

6 March Manunggal Air Aerospatiale Transall C-160 (PK-VTQ) Wamena, Indonesia ?/? 3/5 L

Caught fire on landing.

21 April Rico Linhas Aereas Embraer Bandeirante (PT-OCV) Coari airport, Brazil -/- 14 ER

Engine failure en route from Manaus to Carauari, so the crew diverted to Coari where the aircraft slid off the runway during the landing and was destroyed.

25 May Kallitta Air Boeing 747-200F (N704CK) Brussels Zaventem airport, Belgium - 5 TO

The aircraft suffered momentary loss of power and a possible surge in one of its engines at about V1 (decision speed), and the crew abandoned the take-off. The aircraft overran the runway by about 300m and the fuselage broke up when it went over a 4m drop. Investigators have determined all four engines were operating and apparently undamaged when the aircraft came to a halt.

26 May Great Lake Antonov An-32 (9Q-CMG) Goma airport, DR Congo - 5 L

The crew reported engine problems soon after take-off, and returned to Goma where the aircraft crash-landed.