LANSA Flight 508
|Date||December 24, 1971|
|Summary||Pilot error, Lightning strike|
|Site||Puerto Inca, Peru|
|Survivors||1 (Juliane Koepcke)|
|Aircraft type||Lockheed L-188A Electra|
|Operator||Lineas Aéreas Nacionales Sociedad Anonima|
LANSA Flight 508 was a Lockheed L-188A Electra turboprop, registered OB-R-941, operated as a scheduled domestic passenger flight by Lineas Aéreas Nacionales Sociedad Anonima (LANSA), that crashed in a thunderstorm en route from Lima, Peru to Pucallpa, Peru, on December 24, 1971, killing 91 people – all 6 of its crew and 85 of its 86 passengers. The sole survivor was 17-year-old Juliane Koepcke, who fell 2 miles (3 km) down into the Amazon rainforest strapped to her seat and remarkably survived the fall, and was then able to walk through the jungle for 10 days until she was rescued by local lumbermen.
LANSA Flight 508 departed Lima's Jorge Chávez International Airport just before noon on Christmas Eve on its way to Iquitos, Peru, with a scheduled stop at Pucallpa, Peru. The aircraft was flying at Flight Level 210 (about 21,000 ft / 6,400 m above Mean Sea Level) when it encountered an area of thunderstorms and severe turbulence. There was evidence the crew decided to continue the flight despite the hazardous weather ahead, apparently due to pressures related to meeting the holiday schedule.
At about 12:36 p.m. local time, a lightning strike ignited the fuel tank in the right wing, which quickly led to structural failure of the aircraft. As the plane disintegrated, a 17-year-old German Peruvian teenager, Juliane Koepcke, fell down into the Amazon rainforest 2 miles (3 km) below, strapped to her seat. Despite sustaining a broken collar bone, a deep gash to her right arm, a concussion and an eye injury in the fall, she was able to trek through the dense Amazon jungle for 10 days, until she was rescued by local lumbermen, who subsequently took her by canoe back to civilization. It was later discovered that as many as 14 other passengers also survived the initial fall from the disintegrated plane but were unable to seek help and died while awaiting rescue.
"About forty minutes after take-off, the aircraft entered a zone of strong turbulence and lightning. After flying for twenty minutes in this weather at FL210 lightning struck the aircraft, causing fire on the right wing which separated, along with part of the left wing. The aircraft crashed in flames into mountainous terrain."
The final summary of the cause of the accident was:
"The aircraft suffered a lightning strike, which led to a fire and the separation of the right wing. Intentional flight into hazardous weather conditions."
Juliane Koepcke was a high school senior studying in Lima, intending to become a zoologist, like her father, Hans-Wilhelm Koepcke. Her mother, Maria Koepcke, a leading Peruvian ornithologist, was travelling with Juliane from Lima back to their home Panguana, a nature reserve they had founded a few years previously, near Pucallpa, where the father was awaiting their return in time for Christmas.
When Koepcke landed in the jungle, still strapped to her seat, she had a broken collar bone and an eye injury. She had learned survival skills from her father and was able to follow a small stream until she reached a logging camp eleven days later, from where she was rescued and returned to Pucallpa.
Koepcke's survival was featured in a television documentary film called Wings of Hope in 2000 by director Werner Herzog, who was almost on Flight 508 himself. Koepcke's memoir Als ich vom Himmel fiel has been published by the German publisher Piper Malik on March 10, 2011. (The English edition When I Fell From the Sky, was published by Titletown Publishing on November, 2011.)
- LANSA Flight 502
- AIRES Flight 8250
- Pan Am Flight 214, another crash caused by lightning.
- List of notable accidents and incidents on commercial aircraft.
- Accident description at the Aviation Safety Network
- Plane Crash Accident Record
- "Survivor still haunted by 1971 air crash". CNN. July 2, 2009. Retrieved 2009-07-02.
- Accident Record on Air Disaster
- "Super70's Article". Retrieved 2006-10-09.
- "Wings of Hope (IMDb Record)". Retrieved 2006-10-09.
- Photo of Accident Aircraft on Aviation Safety Site
- Outside Magazine Top Survival Stories
- Tournavista, Peru Record on Falling Rain Site
- BBC News - Juliane Koepcke: How I survived a plane crash