1983 TAME 737-200 crash
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HC-BIG, the aircraft involved in the accident, seen at Guayaquil in December 1, 1982
|Date||11 July 1983|
|Summary||CFIT by pilot error|
|Aircraft type||Boeing 737–2V2 Advanced|
|Aircraft name||Ciudad de Loja|
|Flight origin||Mariscal Sucre International Airport, Quito, Ecuador|
|Destination||Mariscal Lamar International Airport, Cuenca, Ecuador|
The 1983 TAME Boeing 737-200 crash was an aviation incident in which a Boeing 737-2V2 Advanced, operated by the Ecuadorian national airline TAME, which was flying on a domestic route from Mariscal Sucre International Airport in Quito to Mariscal Lamar Airport in Cuenca, crashed into a hill during final approach just one mile (1.6 km) from its final destination, killing all 119 people on board.
The crash was the first and deadliest crash in the history of TAME, and it remains as the deadliest plane crash in the history of Ecuador. An investigation later determined that the flight crashed due to the flight crew's lack of experience on the aircraft type, which caused a controlled flight into terrain.
The aircraft involved in the accident was a Boeing 737-2V2 Advanced, with American-made Pratt & Whitney JT8D-17 engines. When Boeing delivered it, it was registered as N8283V, but when it arrived in the TAME fleet in 1981, its registration and livery changed to HC-BIG. TAME named it "Ciudad de Loja".
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On the morning of July 11, 1983, the aircraft took off from Mariscal Sucre International Airport in Quito for a domestic flight to Mariscal Lamar Airport in Cuenca with 111 passengers and eight crew members. The aircraft encountered foggy conditions during the final approach to Mariscal Lamar Airport, but the weather conditions of that day were reported as clear. The crew contacted the Cuenca control tower for permission to land the plane, which was granted.
During the final few minutes of the flight, the pilots went distracted during a conversation and didn't know that the plane was flying dangerously low towards a mountain. Also, at the same time, they were experimenting with some of the aircraft's controls and systems.
Seconds before the plane hit the mountain and one mile (1.6 km) from the airport, the Ground Proximity Warning System activated, announcing an imminent terrain collision and sounding an alarm. The captain and first officer attempted to climb clear of the mountain by applying full power on the engines and making a steep climb, but it was too late. The jetliner scraped a mountain peak, exploded, and slid down a ravine, coming to rest at the foot of a mountain, killing all 119 people on board instantly.
When radio contact and the plane signal was lost for nearly two minutes, Cuenca air traffic control declared an emergency. The next day, search aircraft and rescue workers were sent to the plane's last known position. Because of the remote area and the difficulty of access to the crash site, it took rescue personnel several hours to reach the site itself. The 737 was destroyed by the impact and was written-off.
Initial suggestions of possible sabotage were advanced by the Ecuadorian civil aviation authorities after a radio station reported witnesses to a mid-air explosion. During the investigation, this cause was discarded due to lack of proofs. They initiated an investigation, with the support of Boeing, the United States National Transportation Safety Board, and Pratt & Whitney, which lasted for several months.
The investigation concluded that the crash occurred due to human error, including several factors: the pilot was unqualified and not trained properly by TAME to fly the Boeing 737 Advanced, the crew was not well acquainted with the controls of the aircraft, and the crew went distracted while trying to find the runway in heavy fog and, as a consequence, the plane dropped below the minimum safe altitude in a mountainous region without the flight crew realizing it until seconds before impact.
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- "'Saboteurs' may have downed jet". Montreal Journal. 13 July 1983.
- "Five Americans among victims of Ecuadorean airline crash". The Deseret News. 12 July 1983.
- "119 die in crash of Ecuadorean jet". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Associated Press. 12 July 1983.