Aeroflot Flight 331
The aircraft involved in the accident
|Date||27 May 1977|
|Site||Off José Martí International Airport |
|Aircraft type||Ilyushin Il-62M|
|Flight origin||Sheremetyevo International Airport|
|1st stopover||Frankfurt Airport|
|Last stopover||Lisbon Airport|
|Destination||José Martí International Airport|
|Fatalities||69 (1 on ground)|
Aeroflot Flight 331, refers to an Ilyushin Il-62M, that crashed approximately 1 km (0.62 mi) away from José Martí International Airport, in Havana, Cuba, on 27 May 1977. The accident occurred after the aircraft hit power lines on its final approach to the airport, during poor weather. The aircraft was attempting an emergency landing, due to a fire in one of its engines. Only two of the 70 occupants on board survived; another person on the ground was also killed.
At the time the accident took place, it was the deadliest aviation accident in Cuba's history; as of May 2018[update], it remains the third-deadliest one, behind the crashes of Cubana Flight 9646 in 1989 and Cubana Flight 972 in 2018, respectively. The cause of the crash was determined as pilot error according to the official report.
Passengers and crew
At the stopover in Lisbon a new crew was charged with the aircraft. The five-member crew consisted of Captain Viktor Orlov, co-pilot Vasily Shevelev, navigator Anatoly Vorobyov, flight engineer Yuri Suslov and radio operator Evgeniy Pankov. The only two survivors of the crash were a West German woman and a Soviet man. One of the victims was José Carlos Schwarz, a poet and musician from Guinea-Bissau.
Sequence of events
At 03:32 UTC Aeroflot flight 331 took off from Lisbon airport and ascended to 35 thousand feet (10.67 kilometers). While on approach to Havana the crew reported seeing false altitude and air pressure readings. Upon approach to Havana, they were granted permission to descend from 35,000 feet to 15,000 feet, followed by being ordered to descend to 3,000 ft. Set to approach number two at they had to fly two minutes then turn 52° to land on the runway at the glide path. At the time, cumulus clouds were present, visibility was 8 kilometers (but a dense fog was 40 meters high), air pressure was 758mm Hg (or 0.99737 atm) and the temperature was 21° Celsius. At 8:45:28 (12:45:28 UTC) local time at 1270 meters from the runway, while approaching the runway, saw power lines 28 meters high, and, in efforts of avoiding them, pulled back on the yoke. But at 23–25 meters they clipped all four power lines, slicing stabilizer and severing the right outboard wing flaps. The damage caused by the power lines resulted in the aircraft making a sharp bank to the right at 70° in the time of three seconds. The plane crashed starting with the bow of the right wing, followed by total hull loss of the aircraft due the fire engulfing the cabin, only the tail section was spared.
The investigation into the accident revealed serious errors made by the crew in the last moments of the flight. Most significant was the decision to go approach number two, followed the errors in calculating altitude resulting inflated altitude readings resulting in a premature decline at a trajectory too low. The committee in charge of the accident investigation declared that the main cause of the accident was called a premature decline caused by crew error in setting the air pressure altimeter, flying in too dense fog to navigate a visual approach on approach number two. The secondary reason cited was the blatant violation by the crew of the approach procedures and the lack of control by the crew of the aircraft on setting the radio altimeter reduction.
- Катастрофа Ил-62М ЦУ МВС близ Гаваны (Куба) [Accident Il-62M Havana] (in Russian). airdisaster.ru. Retrieved 7 August 2012.
- Accident description for CCCP-86614 at the Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved on 3 September 2011.
- "Airline accidents". Flight International: 1689. 11 June 1977. Archived from the original on 28 March 2013.
It is reported that the aircraft struck a power line while attempting an emergency landing in fog.
- "Soviet Jet Crashes; 66 Die". Nashua Telegraph. Mexico City. Associated Press. 28 May 1977. p. 1.
- Knox, Patrick. "JET FIREBALL Cuba plane crash – '110 killed as three survivors pulled from wreckage' in Havana as Boeing 737 explodes moments after takeoff". The Sun. Retrieved 19 May 2018.
- "Accident record for Cuba". Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved 7 August 2012.
- Anne Summers and David Marr, "One white man who won the trust of Aborigines", National Times (6–11 June 1977), p.24.
- "Plane crash IL-62M near Havana (Cuba). 1977". en.avia.pro. Retrieved 7 January 2017.[unreliable source?]
- "Flight Safety 1977 – Fatal accidents: Scheduled flights". Flight International: 182. 21 January 1978. Archived from the original on 28 March 2013.