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Training blamed for MK 747 crash

Inadequate crew preparation and fatigue identified by investigators seeking reason for incorrect throttle setting

Canadian investigators have identified inadequate training and fatigue as the likely principal factors behind the 14 October 2004 fatal take-off crash of an MK Airlines Boeing 747-200 Freighter at Halifax, Nova Scotia.

The primary cause of the accident, in which all seven people on board were killed, was the failure of a crew member to select the correct throttle setting for take-off. The aircraft never got airborne despite two tailscrapes and hit a berm at the end of the runway, causing it to break up and burn.

Transportation Safety Board of Canada lead investigator Bill Fowler says the crew had not received “adequate” training on using the Boeing Laptop Tool (BLT) to calculate take-off performance. However, the investigation was hampered by the loss of the cockpit voice recorder in the post-crash fire.

In an interview with the Canadian Press (CP) agency, Fowler said the 747’s take-off weight was still set at that of its previous departure from Hartford, Connecticut in the USA. This was around 110t lighter than the 747’s weight of more than 350t when the Halifax departure was attempted.

“[MK Airlines] undertook to implement this [software] package following guidance material. The question arose: did they do it adequately? In our view, not all of it,” Fowler said in the interview.

UK-based MK Airlines told CP it believes its training for the BLT was sufficient. “We’ve been using the program for months prior to the accident. We’d never had any information of any problem from any of the aircrew,” it said.

MK also said it “did not believe” that fatigue had played a role. “[The crew] had sufficient rest at different stages of the journey,” the carrier said.

The elapsed time between the crew’s first take-off during their duty period, from Luxembourg, and the crash at Halifax was over 12h. Had the Ghanaian-registered aircraft reached its final destination of Zaragoza, Spain, the crew would have been flying for a further 8h.

MK is re-registering its fleet in the UK and as part of that process has gained UK regulatory approval for the BLT, the carrier told CP.

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