West Caribbean Airways Flight 708 was a chartered flight that crashed in northwest Venezuela in the early hours of Tuesday, 16 August 2005, killing all 160 passengers and crew on board.
The aircraft, a McDonnell Douglas MD-82, was carrying 152 passengers and 8 crew members from Panama City to Fort-de-France, Martinique. It took off from Tocumen International Airport at 00:58 local time (05:58 UTC) and climbed initially to flight level 310 (31,000 feet or 9,400 metres). At 06:51, the crew reported trouble in one engine. They requested and received permission to descend from 31,000 to 14,000 ft (9,400 to 4,300 m). At 06:59, the crew sent a distress call: both engines malfunctioning, aircraft uncontrollable.
The aircraft continued to descend rapidly and crashed into a swampy area in the Sierra de Perijá mountains at 07:00:31 UTC (2:00:31 AM local time). The impact was so violent that the aircraft disintegrated and all 160 people on board were killed.
One day after the disaster, West Caribbean Airways was grounded by the CAEAC as a result of it. In the aftermath, the airline filed for bankruptcy in October 2005.
The cause of the crash was determined to be a combination of factors, including:
The final investigation report from the CIAA, by this time renamed the Civil Aviation Accident Investigation Board (JIAAC, Spanish: Junta Investigadora de Accidentes de Aviación Civil), identified pilot error as the most likely underlying cause of the incident. The JIAAC cited a lack of situational awareness and crew resource management (CRM), which would have better prepared the crew to react to the stall and the seriousness of the problem, underscoring the conclusion identifying pilot error as the reason. The crew’s failure to fly the aircraft within its typical constraints was emphasized in the report. Due to the crew’s poor judgment and ineffective communication, they were unable to recover from the stall.
The crash of this flight was a major tragedy that claimed the lives of 160 people. It highlighted the importance of proper training for airline crews and the need for safety measures.
- Image source: By Andrés Dallimonti – http://www.airliners.net/photo/West-Caribbean-Airways/McDonnell-Douglas-MD-82/0907280, GFDL, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=29723762
- Featured image: https://taketotheskypodcast.com/west-caribbean-airways-flight-708/
- For more aviation accidents click.