Schiphol crash pilot's death draws cockpit door scrutiny

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The Turkish Airlines Boeing 737-800 crash on approach to Amsterdam Schiphol airport is the first survivable incident in which the anti-hijacking cockpit security door was shown to be a hazard for pilots.

Turkey's main English language newspaper Hurriyet has reported an on-scene witness statement that one of the pilots survived the crash even if badly injured, but he was not rescued in time to save his life.

Rescue teams eventually had to recover the bodies of the three pilots - one was traveling in the jump-seat - by cutting through the cockpit roof.

"According to the eye-witnesses and passengers, first aid came 40 minutes after landing," said Ziya Yilmaz, Turkish Air Line Pilots Associaton (TALPA) president tells ATI. "The first officer was screaming and waiting 40 minutes for rescue. We will inform IFALPA and ask why?"

The Dutch Safety Board says it cannot comment on the allegations in the Hurriyet report, adding that it is investigating all scenarios, including the Turkish Airline Pilots Association allegation that wake vortex from a previous aircraft may have contributed to the accident. The Board added that more information may be available "after the weekend".

The Hurriyet report, quoting Turkey's Dogan news agency, says that Ismail Akyuz, a Turkish man living in Amsterdam, and his wife were travelling along the main road near the airport when the aircraft came down in fields close to them.

Akyuz told Hurriyet: "We took notice of the plane after we realised it was Turkish." The two crossed the field in which the aircraft had come to a halt, says the report. Akyuz described to Dogan what they found: "I saw the hand of the pilot in the front part of the plane. He was in the throes of death. When I arrived he was still alive but couldn't move. I heard him noisily breathing.

Akyuz continued: "When we first arrived at the scene we saw people lying on the ground injured. Some of them had broken legs... I entered the fuselage from one of the open doors and walked to the back part of the plane. There were couple of people there and we helped them to get out." He also commented: "It took around 20 minutes before the rescue teams got to the scene as a secondary road leads there." The Safety Board said it is unable, at present, to provide the time it took for the crash rescue team to arrive at the accident scene. Runway 18R is the furthest of the runways from the main part of Schiphol airport, and the wrecked hull was about 1km short of the runway threshold outside the airport boundary.

Dutch authorities have also been unable to confirm whether the rescue teams were able to determine whether the cockpit crew were dead when they reached the accident scene. But they concentrated first on evacuating badly injured survivors because they could not penetrate the cockpit door.

"The cockpit doors changed after 9/11," says TALPA's Yilmaz. "But in the crashes, how will the pilots be rescued from the cockpit?"

The seven-year-old 737 (TC-JGE) crashed while inbound from Istanbul, Turkey on 25 February. It came down in open fields on short final approach slightly to the left of the extended centreline. Accident investigators say that initial download from the flight data recorder shows it had "very low" forward speed. This fact is borne out by the extremely short skid marks on the ground before the hull came to rest.

The aircraft hit the surface in landing configuration, and witnesses say the nose was very high. The investigators confirm the tail hit the ground first, partly severing it, and the aircraft had a high vertical speed, which accounts for the nine fatalities and a large number of serious injuries among the seven crew and 127 passengers.

·  Link: AirSpace discussion on the incident involving Turkish Airlines Boeing 737-800 aircraft at Amsterdam Schiphol

·  Link: Gallery of images on AirSpace

·  Link: Airline profile: Turkish Airlines

·  Link: Aircraft profile: Boeing 737

·  Link: Map - Amsterdam Schiphol crash area

·  Link: Incident Watch