The Union des Transports Africains de Guinee (UTAG) Boeing 727-200 that crashed at Cotonou, Benin on 25 December 2003 was overloaded and its centre of gravity well out of limits, according to an interim statement by the French air accident investigation bureau BEA. The aircraft failed to take off and hit buildings at the runway end, killing 140 of the 160 people on board.

The BEA is working with the Benin authorities to download and analyse the contents of the flight data and cockpit voice recorders. The bureau says the aircraft's payload distribution was more of an influence in preventing the aircraft taking off than the overloading, which is estimated to have been 10,000kg (22,000lb). The 26-year-old aircraft (3X-GDO), which had arrived at Cotonou from its base at Conakry, Guinea, was bound for Beirut and Dubai. Most of those on board were Lebanese, and the crew was Libyan.

The BEA says the full report is not yet ready, partly because work remains to be done to establish the aircraft's recent technical history. It was originally owned by American Airlines but, the BEA says that, after some time parked, it was operated in Afghanistan and Swaziland before going to Guinea

Source: Flight International