Air France Flight 117
An Air France Boeing 707–320 similar to the crashed aircraft
|Date||22 June 1962|
|Summary||Controlled flight into terrain|
|Site||Dos D'Ane, 25 km (15.5 mi) WNW of Pointe-à-Pitre, Guadeloupe
|Aircraft type||Boeing 707–328|
|Aircraft name||Chateau de Chantilly|
|Flight origin||Paris, France|
|1st stopover||Lisbon, Portugal|
|2nd stopover||Santa Maria Island, Azores|
|3rd stopover||Pointe-à-Pitre, Guadeloupe|
|4th stopover||Caracas, Venezuela|
|Last stopover||Lima, Peru|
Air France Flight 117 was a multi-leg international scheduled flight from Paris-Orly Airport via Lisbon, the Azores, Guadeloupe and Peru to Santiago, Chile, which crashed 22 June 1962. The Boeing 707–328 aircraft involved in the accident was just four months old.
The flight was uneventful until approaching Pointe-à-Pitre. The airport is surrounded by mountains and requires a steep descent. The weather was poor – violent thunderstorm and low cloud ceiling. The VOR navigational beacon was out of service. The crew reported themselves over the non-directional beacon (NDB) at 5,000 feet (1,524 m) and turned east to begin the final approach. Due to incorrect automatic direction finder (ADF) readings caused by the thunderstorm, the plane strayed 15 km (9.3 mi) west from the procedural let-down track. The plane crashed in a forest on a hill called Dos D'Ane ("The Donkey's Back"), at about 1,400 feet (427 m) and exploded. There were no survivors. Among the dead was French Guianan politician and war hero Justin Catayée and poet and black-consciousness activist Paul Niger.
The investigation could not determine the exact reason for the accident, but suspected the insufficient meteorological information given to the crew, failure of the ground equipment, and the atmospheric effects on the ADF indicator. After the crash Air France pilots criticized under-developed airports with facilities that were ill-equipped to handle jet aircraft, such as Guadeloupe's airport. This was the second accident in less than three weeks with an Air France Boeing 707 after the crash on 3 June 1962. Tex Johnston, Chief Test Pilot of Boeing Aircraft Co. wrote in his autobiography of events leading up to the crash. "Air France flight crews were habitually late (for crew training by Boeing), and on occasion the airplane not serviced. ... After much extra, and in my mind, excessive flight training, the chief pilot failed to qualify." He informed the Air France Chief Executive in writing "I did not believe the captain capable of qualifying in the 707." Later "... an Air France instructor qualified the chief pilot. On his second trip as captain, he missed an inclement weather approach... and crashed into a mountain."
Some debris still remain at the site, where a memorial monument was placed in 2002 to mark the 40th anniversary of the crash. The road leading to the site is named Route du Boeing in memory of the crash.
- "Boeing Crash Pilot's Alleged Protest Before Flight." The Times. 2 July 1962. 10.(subscription required)[dead link]
- Johnston, A.M. "Tex" (2014-12-04). Tex Johnston: Jet-Age Test Pilot. Smithsonian Institution. ISBN 978 1-588-34447-2.
- "Dos d'Ane – La Stèle". 5 September 2010. Retrieved 20 March 2012.
- "Deshaies" (in French). Retrieved 8 July 2016.
- "Air France (AF) No. 117 Flight Tracker". FlightAware. Retrieved 1 December 2012.