Aviation Accidents

Turkish Airlines Flight 981 and DC-10

In addition to the rapid development, the 1970s also witnessed two major accidents in the history of civil aviation. Increasing air traffic has always brought with it new restrictions. Technological advances were able to eliminate most of these problems, though. But when the job got out of machine control and depended on human attention, major accidents also became inevitable. One of these accidents undoubtedly occurred on Turkish Airlines flight 981.

Date March 3, 1974, located at Orly Airport, Paris, France. The first leg of the Istanbul-Paris-London flight of Turkish Airlines with flight number 981 was completed without any problems. The plane had landed at Orly Airport, Paris, where it was to drop off a group of passengers and continue on its way.

Strike by British European Airways Employees

But that was not the case that day. The plane was almost full due to a strike by British European Airways employees. Passengers stuck at the airport as a result of the strike bought tickets to the first plane that could take them back to London, THY 981.

While the plane was preparing for flight on the ground, Mouhammad Mahmoudi, an Algerian baggage officer, was working at the back of the plane. When Mahmoudi learned that there was no more baggage to come, he closed the cargo door of the plane. However, he closed the door with excessive force. Of course, he could not have known that the consequences would be fatal.

The plane was a 1-year-old Mcdonnell Douglas DC-10. Captain Nejat Berköz, co-pilot Oral Ulusman and flight engineer Erhan Özer were on the flight that day.

Turkish Airlines Flight 981

Turkish Airlines flight TK981 took off from Paris at around 12:30 noon. Shortly thereafter, the aircraft received clearance from the controllers to climb to 23,000 feet (6,900 meters). However, the Aircraft was just past 11,000 feet (3,300 meters) when an explosion sounded from the cabin.

Those moments were recorded in the cockpit sound recorder as follows.

Captain Berköz : (calmly) What happened?

Co-pilot Ulusman: (again calmly) The cabin exploded.

Berkoz: Are you sure?

Ulusman: Yes, I guess.

The cargo door of the plane exploded, creating a hole in the floor of the plane. The plane continued its straight flight for a while. However, the number 2 engine in the tail had failed. Then the passengers on the plane came forward in fear to avoid the hole in the back. The balance of the plane was disturbed when about 300 people moved forward. The plane began to descend and fall rapidly.

Ulusman: Seven thousand feet!

Ulusman: Hydraulics!

Erhan Özer: We lost, it doesn’t work!

After a while, the plane started giving an overspeed warning. The DC-10 began to flight smootly with the effect of the speed, but they had lost too much altitude.

The DC-10 went out of control and, despite the best efforts of the pilots, crashed into the forests of Ermenonville, 37 km northeast of Paris.

Turkish Airlines Flight 981
THY Flight 981

We hit the ground; Ulusman said. These had been his last words. The plane crashed into the ground at a speed of about 800 km/h. There were a total of 346 people on board, of which 335 were passengers and 11 were crew members. There were no survivors in the accident.

About 2 years before this accident, an American Airlines plane in Windsor, USA, had a disaster for the same reason. At that time, American flight safety officials detected the problem in the cargo door of the DC-10 aircraft and reported it to the relevant units.

You can reach the final report of that accident via the official report link.