Air Niugini Flight 73

Coordinates: 7°27′12.55″N 151°50′9.86″E / 7.4534861°N 151.8360722°E / 7.4534861; 151.8360722
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Air Niugini Flight 73
Photograph of passengers being rescued from the aircraft
Passengers and crew being rescued following the accident
Date28 September 2018 (2018-09-28)
SummaryDitched short of the runway due to pilot error and loss of situational awareness
SiteChuuk Lagoon, off from Chuuk International Airport
7°27′12.55″N 151°50′9.86″E / 7.4534861°N 151.8360722°E / 7.4534861; 151.8360722
Aircraft typeBoeing 737-8BK
OperatorAir Niugini
IATA flight No.PX073
ICAO flight No.ANG073
Call signNIUGINI 73
Flight originPohnpei Airport
StopoverChuuk International Airport
DestinationPort Moresby Airport

Air Niugini Flight 73 was a scheduled service from Pohnpei, Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) to Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, via Chuuk, FSM. On 28 September 2018, a Boeing 737, operated by Air Niugini, landed short of the runway at Chuuk International Airport in Weno (FSM) and came to rest in Chuuk Lagoon. Locals in small boats rescued most passengers and all crew members. One passenger was initially declared missing. He was later found dead by rescue divers.[1] Forty-six people survived but six of them were injured.

Aircraft and crew[edit]

P2-PXE, the aircraft involved in the accident, in 2014.

The accident aircraft was a Boeing 737-8BK, registration P2-PXE, msn 33024, Boeing line number 1688. It had first flown on 1 April 2005. The aircraft was powered by two CFM International CFM56-7B26 engines.[2] At the time of the accident, the aircraft had accumulated 37,160 hours and 36 minutes flight time in 14,788 cycles.[3]

The aircraft was originally registered VT-AXC for Air India Express and was delivered on 19 April 2005.[2] On 6 July 2005, it was damaged in a runway excursion on landing at Cochin International Airport, India.[4] On 29 July 2010, the aircraft was sold to Jet Airways and was registered VT-JBT. It was sold to CIT Leasing Corporation on 24 July 2013 and registered M-ABGK before being sold to Loftleidir, which leased the aircraft to Air Niugini on 13 September 2013. The aircraft was registered P2-PXE.[2][3] On 12 May 2018, it was struck by Lockheed L-100 Hercules N403LC of Lynden Air Cargo whilst parked at Port Moresby Airport, sustaining damage to its right winglet.[5]

The captain and pilot in command was a 52-year-old Papua New Guinean male who had 19,780 flight hours, including 2,276 hours on the Boeing 737.[3]: 7  The first officer was a 35-year-old Australian male who had 4,618 flight hours, with 368 of them on the Boeing 737. An engineer from Loftleidir was also on board and was sitting in the cockpit jumpseat. He was filming the landing for recreation purposes using his cell phone. The phone survived the accident and the video was used for the subsequent investigation.[3]: 2 


The aircraft was operating an internationally scheduled passenger flight from Pohnpei Airport, FSM to Port Moresby Airport, Papua New Guinea via Chuuk International Airport, FSM. At 10:10 local time (00:10 UTC), the aircraft landed in the Chuuk lagoon 135 metres (443 ft; 148 yd) short of Chuuk International Airport. Initial reports stated that all twelve crew and 35 passengers were rescued by local boats and United States Navy personnel.[2][6] However, a male Indonesian passenger was reported missing after the evacuation. Three days of searching failed to locate the missing passenger seated at 23A, and the investigating commission requested a verification search of the airplane. On 1 October 2018, experienced Japanese divers located the passenger between partially submerged seat rows 22 and 23, in the vicinity of a fuselage fracture. The one dead passenger had not been wearing a seatbelt.[7] Air Niugini had previously stated that the deceased passenger had been seen by other passengers evacuating the aircraft.[8] Nine people were taken to hospital.[9][10] Six passengers were seriously injured.[11] Some of the injured sustained broken bones. It was reported that there were thunderstorms in the vicinity of the airport at the time of the accident.[12] The aircraft subsequently sank in 30 metres (100 ft) of water.[6]


The Papua New Guinea Accident Investigation Commission opened an investigation into the accident.[13]

The Department of Transportation, Communications & Infrastructure in the Federated States of Micronesia opened an investigation. A preliminary report was issued on October 26.[11] It stated that the body of the deceased passenger was recovered from the aircraft.[11] Pathological analysis found that the passenger had succumbed to injuries within 3 minutes of the impact. An autopsy determined that there was a lack of trauma around the waist and hips, indicating that the passenger "was not wearing a seat-belt" at the time of the crash, "which allowed his body to become a projectile sustaining traumatic head and facial injuries".[14]

On 18 July 2019, the Papua New Guinea Accident Investigation Commission issued its final report: the flight crew did not comply with Air Niugini Standard Operating Procedures, nor the approach or pre-landing checklists, and did not adequately brief the approach. The flight path became unstable after autopilot disconnect. The Precision Approach Path Indicator was showing three white lights just before entering Instrument Meteorological Conditions (IMC). The rate of descent significantly exceeded 1,000 feet per minute (5.1 m/s) in IMC. The glideslope deviated from half dot low to two dots high within nine seconds after passing the Minimum Descent Altitude. The flight crew heard, but disregarded, thirteen Enhanced Ground Proximity Warning System (EGPWS) aural alerts (Glideslope and Sink Rate) and flew a 4.5° average glideslope. EGPWS showed a visual PULL UP warning on the Primary Flight Display. The pilots lost situational awareness. The approach was unstabilised, but the captain did not execute a missed approach. The copilot was ineffective and oblivious to the rapidly unfolding unsafe situation. A continuous WHOOP WHOOP PULL UP aural warning could have been effective in alerting the crew of the imminent danger.[3]

The final report stated confusion led to a botched evacuation of the airplane. According to cabin crew members, the word 'evacuate' was not understood by some of the passengers. Several passengers took their cabin baggage with them against instructions. The US Navy divers allowed a passenger to re-enter the aircraft and move forward to retrieve his shoes. However some cabin crew members acted with conspicuous courage, retrieving passengers lying under water in the aisle or still strapped in their seats. The report concluded the Papua New Guinea Civil Aviation Safety Authority "did not meet the high standard of evidence-based assessment required for safety assurance, resulting in numerous deficiencies and errors".[15]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Press statement - Air Niugini Facebook". Facebook.
  2. ^ a b c d "P2-PXE Accident description". Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved September 28, 2018.
  3. ^ a b c d e "Final Report AiC 18-004" (PDF). Papua New Guinea Accident Investigation Commission. Retrieved March 15, 2022.
  4. ^ "Flight Operations in raining conditions - with special reference to the Indian sub-continent" (PDF). Flight Safety Notes. Kuwait Airways (107). December 2007. Archived from the original (PDF) on September 29, 2018. Retrieved September 29, 2018.
  5. ^ "Preliminary Report AIC 18-001" (PDF). Papua New Guinea Accident Investigation Commission. June 7, 2018. Archived from the original (PDF) on September 29, 2018. Retrieved September 29, 2018.
  6. ^ a b White, Matthew R. "U.S. Navy UCT 2 Renders Assistance Following Plane Crash in Chuuk". United States Navy 7th Fleet. Retrieved September 28, 2018.
  7. ^ "Pilots ignored alerts in fatal Air Niugini flight 73 crash, report finds". ABC News. July 18, 2019. Retrieved November 16, 2022.
  8. ^ "Air Niugini plane crash turns fatal after divers find missing passenger's body". ABC News. October 2, 2018. Retrieved October 2, 2018.
  9. ^ "Air Niugini Says All on Board Rescued After 737 Lands in Chuuk Lagoon". Australian Aviation. September 28, 2018. Retrieved September 28, 2018.
  10. ^ Dye, Josh (September 28, 2018). "PNG-bound Air Niugini flight lands in lagoon". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved September 28, 2018.
  11. ^ a b c "Preliminary Report 18-1001" (PDF). Department of Transportation, Communications & Infrastructure. Archived from the original (PDF) on October 26, 2018. Retrieved October 26, 2018.
  12. ^ Hradecky, Simon. "Accident: Niugini B738 at Chuuk on Sep 28th 2018, touched down in sea short of runway". The Aviation Herald. Retrieved September 28, 2018.
  13. ^ "Passengers safe after Air Niugini flight crashes into sea in Micronesia". Reuters. September 28, 2018. Retrieved September 29, 2018.
  14. ^ "Sole fatality in Air Niugini crash attributed to seat-belt avoidance". Daily Pakistan Global. July 20, 2019. Retrieved August 6, 2021.
  15. ^ "Pilots blamed and botched rescue exposed in report into Chuuk plane crash". The Independent. July 19, 2019. Archived from the original on July 19, 2019. Retrieved August 6, 2021.

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