AIRES Flight 8250
HK-4682, the aircraft involved in the incident, pictured at Bogota's El Dorado International Airport five months before the crash
|Date||16 August 2010|
|Site||Gustavo Rojas Pinilla International Airport
|Aircraft type||Boeing 737-73V|
|Flight origin||El Dorado International Airport, Bogotá|
|Destination||Gustavo Rojas Pinilla International Airport, San Andrés|
AIRES Flight 8250 was a domestic scheduled passenger flight which crashed on 16 August 2010 on the Colombian island of San Andrés, in the Caribbean, with two fatalities. The aircraft, an AIRES-operated Boeing 737-73V, was en route from the Colombian capital Bogota when it crashed while attempting to land in bad weather, breaking into three pieces on impact with the runway. It was the second fatal accident involving a 737-700, and the first one leading to the plane being written off.
The aircraft involved was a Boeing 737-73V, registration HK-4682, with serial number (MSN) 32416, construction number 1270. It was powered by two CFM56-7B20 engines and had a capacity for 149 passengers single class. The aircraft had its maiden flight on 10 January 2003, with registration N6046P. Boeing originally delivered it to low-cost airline Easyjet on 21 February 2003 as G-EZJU. Serving with Easyjet until January 2010, it was then serve with GECAS. The aircraft was delivered to AIRES on 6 March 2010.
Aires said it has a fleet of about 20 planes, including 10 737-700s. Investigators said the day after the crash that the plane's maintenance log was up to date. The accident was the first that resulted in a Boeing 737-700 being written off. It was the second fatal accident involving a 737-700, following the runway overrun incident of Southwest Airlines Flight 1248 in Chicago in December 2005.
The flight was operated by the local, privately owned Colombian airline, AIRES. The aircraft was on a flight from the Colombian capital of Bogota, to the Colombian island of San Andrés, in the Caribbean. A popular tourist destination, San Andres Island is about 190 kilometres (100 nmi) east of the Nicaraguan coast.
The flight took off from Bogota shortly after midnight. Operating as Flight 8250, it departed from El Dorado International Airport at 00:07 en route to Gustavo Rojas Pinilla International Airport. The flight crew consisted of Captain Wilson Gutiérrez and First Officer Camilo Piñeros Rodríguez.
The crash occurred as the plane came into land on San Andrés, at 1:49 am local Western Caribbean Time (UTC−05:00). The plane split into three pieces. The impact occurred about 260 feet (80 m) before the start of the runway, with wreckage spread about another 328 feet (100 m). The plane skidded along the runway, fracturing the landing gear and ripping one engine from the wings. The aircraft's nose and first eight rows of seating came to rest on the runway pointing in a different direction to the rest of the wreckage. According to Colonel David Barrero of the Colombian Air Force, "the skill of the pilot kept the plane from colliding with the airport". The engines shut down on impact, and the fuselage did not catch fire. Airport fire crews quickly doused a small fire that had started on a wing. As a result of the accident, the Comité Regional de Prevención y Atención de Desastres was mobilized.
Passengers and crew
There are contradictory reports as to how many people were aboard the aircraft. Reports range from 121 passengers and six crew members, 131 passengers and crew, and at least 127 people aboard. The report of 131 people was further broken down as 121 adult passengers and four minors. Reports the day after the accident, settled on 131 people aboard, 125 passengers and six crew.
There were two fatalities. Autopsy revealed that a 68-year-old woman suffered a ruptured aorta and ruptured liver. She died on the way to the hospital. One early report stated that 114 people were injured in the crash, and that of 99 passengers taken to the Amor de Patria Hospital on San Andrés, only four had suffered major injuries. Reports a day later settled on a figure of 119 people being taken to local hospitals, mostly with minor injuries. 13 survivors, including four with serious injuries, were flown to Bogota for treatment. The second fatality was a girl; she sustained substantial brain damage and died 16 days after the accident.
One report stated that the passenger list included six Americans, five Mexican, four Brazilians, four Ecuadorian and two Germans, the rest being Colombians. Another report stated there were three Americans aboard. A later report put the number of non-Colombians aboard as 'at least 16'.
Colombia's civil aviation authority, Special Administrative Unit of Civil Aeronautics, and the Colombian Air Force opened an investigation into the accident. The airport was closed as investigators examined the wreckage to determine the cause of the accident. The closure was expected to last until 06:00 on 17 August.
The plane reportedly crashed in bad weather, while a storm was reported in the area, but not at the airport. The METAR (aviation routine weather observation message) report in force at the time of the accident indicated that the wind was from the east north east at 6 knots (11 km/h), visibility was good and that the runway was wet.1 The plane "landed in the middle of an intense electrical storm" according to Colonel Barrero.
Passenger accounts the day after the crash detailed how the landing appeared to have been going normally, with the flight attendants having made the passengers ready for landing, when the crash occurred suddenly and without warning. The pilot did not report an emergency to the tower. There were conflicting reports over what caused the crash, suggesting that the landing was disrupted after either the plane was hit by a downdraft, or struck by lightning. The pilot said that the plane was struck by lightning. Officials refused to comment on the reports of a lightning strike, although subsequent research proved that was not true. No plane has had an accident caused by lighting since 1971. The airport was not fitted with equipment such as a Doppler radar, used to detect wind shear.
Both the flight data and cockpit voice recorders were recovered from the wreckage. Based on the pattern of wreckage, investigators concluded that the plane had cracked apart on impact and not while in the air.
Almost one year after the accident, on 15 July 2011, the Security Council of Aeronáutica Civil concluded that it was an error of the pilot, who did not correctly adjust to the bad weather and high winds, touching ground before the runway and saying "the pilot entered at a low altitude and the strong winds knocked down the aircraft". Aeronaútica Civil recommended retraining of the crew. Although the accident was caused by human error, Aeronaútica representative Colonel Carlos Silva reminded that the purpose of the investigation was not to apportion blame but to prevent aircraft accidents that may occur in the future. 
^Note A METAR raw data: SKSP 160500Z 07006KT 9999 FEW016 SCT200 29/26 A2990= Translated: Gustavo Rojas Pinilla International Airport date: 16th day of the month, time: 0500 zulu/UTC, wind: 070° at 6 kt, visibility: 10 km or more, few clouds at 1600 ft., scattered clouds at 20000 ft., temperature 29 °C, dew point 26 °C, altimeter setting (pressure) 2990 inHg
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- Para información del vuelo 8250 – AIRES (Spanish) (Archive)
- Special Administrative Unit of Civil Aeronautics Final report (Archive)
- Passenger list (Spanish)