Air Philippines Flight 541

Coordinates: 07°09′24″N 125°42′03″E / 7.15667°N 125.70083°E / 7.15667; 125.70083
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Air Philippines Flight 541
The aircraft involved in the accident, while in service with Southwest Airlines in 1998
DateApril 19, 2000 (2000-04-19)
SummaryPilot error leading to controlled flight into terrain
SiteSamal, Davao del Norte
07°09′24″N 125°42′03″E / 7.15667°N 125.70083°E / 7.15667; 125.70083
Aircraft typeBoeing 737-2H4
OperatorAir Philippines
Flight originNinoy Aquino International Airport, Manila, Philippines
DestinationFrancisco Bangoy International Airport, Davao City, Philippines

Air Philippines Flight 541 was a scheduled domestic flight operated by Air Philippines from Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila to Francisco Bangoy International Airport in Davao City. On April 19, 2000, the Boeing 737-2H4 crashed in Samal, Davao del Norte while on approach to the airport, killing all 124 passengers and 7 crew members. It remains the deadliest air disaster in the Philippines and the third deadliest accident involving the Boeing 737-200, after Mandala Airlines Flight 091, which crashed 5 years later, and Indian Airlines Flight 113.[1]

Aircraft and crew[edit]


The aircraft, a Boeing 737-2H4, registration RP-C3010 and previously owned by Southwest Airlines as N50SW, was first delivered in February 1978 and was sold to Air Philippines 20 years later.

Passengers and crew[edit]

In command of the flight was Captain Estraton Catipay - the youngest pilot to have served for Philippine Airlines in the 1960s. He also worked for airlines in the United States such as Pan Am, Delta, TWA and Eastern Airlines, and in other major airlines in Asia and London such as Malaysia Air.[2] Acting as the first officer for the trip was 22-year old Captain Don Sardalla.

There were 124 passengers (19 of them children) and 7 crew members, totalling 131 people on board.[3] The flight was packed as it was the start of celebrating the Easter season and transportation services across the Philippines are particularly heavily crowded, with people taking advantage of the long holidays going back to their hometowns from different places in the country. Among the victims were the sister-in-law, nephew, and niece of then-Governor of Cotabato Emmanuel Piñol.[4]


On April 19, 2000, Flight 541, with 131 passengers and crew, left Manila at about 5:30 AM, bound for Davao City. At around 7 AM, the aircraft was approaching runway 05 following an Airbus A320 operated by Philippine Airlines. When Flight 541 broke free from the clouds the crew observed that the aircraft had not yet cleared the runway, at which time they advised ATC, or air traffic control, a missed approach procedure should be performed. Flight 541 began to climb and re-entered the clouds. The correct procedure would have been to climb to 4,000 feet (1,200 m) on instruments and circle around to pick up a glide slope. Instead, the pilots attempted to fly VFR in instrument conditions at a lower altitude. Flight 541 hit a coconut tree about 500 feet (150 m) above sea level, and crashed a few miles east of the Francisco Bangoy International Airport.[5] The plane subsequently caught fire and disintegrated; there were no survivors.[6]


Villagers on the island said the plane was flying at low altitude and hit the top of a coconut tree, which knocked off part of its wing. They said it appeared the plane tried to pull up under full engine power, but failed and crashed. The plane caught fire when it came down in a coconut grove. Airport officials said skies were foggy at the time of the accident.[7] Twenty-one of the victims were never identified and were buried in a mass grave.[8]

Francisco Bangoy International Airport did not have full equipment for instrument landings at that time, and visual landings had been suspended several minutes before the crash.


  1. ^ "Air Philippines crash kills all 131 on board". CNN. April 19, 2000. Archived from the original on November 13, 2007. Retrieved August 30, 2014.
  2. ^ "Air Philippines pilot an expert flier". Philippine Star. 2000-04-23. Retrieved 2023-04-19.
  3. ^ "Sounds of life haunt crash site". Philippine Daily Inquirer. pp. 1, 18. Archived from the original on 2023-01-08. Retrieved 2023-01-08.
  4. ^ "Kin of Flight 541 victims welcome US court ruling". Archived from the original on 2022-08-17. Retrieved 2022-08-17.
  5. ^ Ranter, Harro. "ASN Aircraft accident Boeing 737-2H4 RP-C3010 Davao". Archived from the original on 2019-03-31. Retrieved 2019-07-20.
  6. ^ "131 killed in Philippines' worst air crash". Guardian News and Media Limited. April 2000. Archived from the original on 26 October 2020. Retrieved 25 December 2018.
  7. ^ "Aftermath of Flight 541". Archived from the original on 2018-06-23. Retrieved 2018-06-23.
  8. ^ "Flights 387, 541, The pain, struggle". Philippine Daily Inquirer. p. 14. Retrieved 2023-09-24. The relatives of 21 others had to visit a grave with only the inscription: "Here lie the unrecognized... by human eye... but (who are) now with the Master's care... immortalized. Died Holy Wednesday, 19 April 2000."

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