Cubana de Aviación Flight 972

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Cubana de Aviación Flight 972
XA-UHZ (6908943182).jpg
XA-UHZ, the aircraft involved in the accident,
seen in 2011
Accident
Date18 May 2018
SummaryCrashed during climb out; weight miscalculation and pilot error.
SiteSantiago de las Vegas
Havana, Cuba
22°59′29″N 82°23′28″W / 22.99139°N 82.39111°W / 22.99139; -82.39111Coordinates: 22°59′29″N 82°23′28″W / 22.99139°N 82.39111°W / 22.99139; -82.39111[1]
Aircraft
Aircraft typeBoeing 737-201 Adv.
OperatorGlobal Air on behalf of Cubana de Aviación
IATA flight No.CU972
ICAO flight No.CUB972
Call signCUBANA 972
RegistrationXA-UHZ
Flight originJosé Martí International Airport
Havana, Cuba
DestinationFrank País Airport
Holguín, Cuba
Occupants113
Passengers107
Crew6
Fatalities112
Injuries1
Survivors1

Cubana de Aviación Flight 972 was a scheduled domestic flight operated by Mexican charter airline Global Air on behalf of Cubana de Aviación, from José Martí International Airport, Havana, Cuba, to Frank País Airport in Holguín, Cuba. On 18 May 2018, the 39-year-old Boeing 737-201 Adv. operating the route crashed shortly after takeoff,[2][3] near Santiago de las Vegas, 19 kilometres (12 mi; 10 nmi) from Havana city centre.[4][5][6][7] Of those on board, 112 died and one passenger survived with critical injuries.[8] There were initially four survivors, but three of them later died at a local hospital. Most of the passengers on board were Cuban nationals, although the crew was entirely Mexican.

The incident was scrutinized by Cuban safety investigators, with assistance from the United States and Mexico. While the Federal Aviation Administration has no official jurisdiction in Cuba, their assistance was voluntary and welcomed by Cuban officials due to the local investigators' general lack of experience with American-built aircraft. Additional assistance was provided by Mexico, where the aircraft was registered, and also where the airline and flight crew that owned and operated the aircraft were based. The multinational investigation ultimately determined in September 2019 that the aircraft was outside centre of gravity, and the pilots were unsuccessful in an attempt to remedy issues related to the plane's loading/weight imbalance.

Aircraft[edit]

The aircraft was a leased Boeing 737-201 Adv. aircraft,[9] operated by Mexican charter airline Global Air (Aerolíneas Damojh, S.A. de C.V.), on a scheduled domestic flight from Havana to Holguín on behalf of Cubana de Aviación.[10] The aircraft was manufactured in July 1979,[11] and after being owned by a number of different airlines, it was acquired in July 2011 by Global Air,[11] who began to operate the plane for Cubana de Aviación in 2018.

A statement by Global Air said that its aircraft had passed a November 2017 Mexican government inspection and that it was up-to-date with its permits to operate and lease aircraft.[12]

Accident[edit]

Flight 972 was on a domestic flight to Frank País Airport in Holguín, eastern Cuba. It was carrying a total of 113 people – 107 passengers and six crew members. All but five of the passengers were Cuban nationals and all of the flight crew were Mexican.[13]

The aircraft crashed close to the airport at 12:08 pm, shortly after taking off.[9][14] Eyewitnesses said that the plane made an unusual turn after leaving the runway; one witness on the ground said that she saw one of the plane's engines on fire.[12] The plane crashed into train tracks and a farm, and a fire erupted from the wreckage.[7] No one on the ground was injured. First responders, including firefighters and emergency medical crews, rushed to the scene to assist with the rescue efforts.[14]

All but four of the 113 people on board perished in the crash; however, three of the four survivors later died in hospital.[8][9] Flight 972 is the second deadliest aircraft accident in Cuba, surpassed only by the crash of Cubana de Aviación Flight 9046 in 1989, which killed 150 people. The previous major commercial aircraft accident in Cuba was Aero Caribbean Flight 883 in 2010.[7]

Security camera footage of the accident was released on 25 May, showing the final moments of the aircraft before the crash, from a nearby location.[15]

Response[edit]

President Miguel Díaz-Canel, Health Minister Roberto Morales, and other local authorities arrived at the site to observe and monitor the rescue efforts.[7][12] Family and relatives of those aboard also gathered at the site and were later taken to the airport.[7]

The country declared an official period of mourning from 6 am on 19 May to 12 midnight on 20 May,[16] with flags to fly at half-mast outside government and military installations.[17]

Relatives were called to Havana to identify the dead, with the National Revolutionary Police escorting them to clear the way.[18]

Passengers and crew[edit]

The all-Mexican crew consisted of two pilots and four flight attendants, and there were 107 passengers on board.[13] Mexico's Secretariat of Communications and Transportation released a statement identifying the crew members.[19]

The captain was 53-year-old Jorge Nuñez Santos, who had logged 16,655 flight hours. The first officer was 40-year-old Miguel Arreola Ramírez, who had 2,314 flight hours.[20]: 12–15 [21][1]

Of the 113 on board, four passengers initially survived the accident, all with serious injuries, but one of them died hours later at the hospital.[12][22] One passenger who initially survived the crash died three days later, on 21 May,[23][24] and another died on 25 May.[25][26] In total, 112 people, including all crew members, were killed in the accident. A Cuban national, remained as the only survivor of the crash.[8] She suffered from severe burns, fragmentation of memory, a cervical spinal injury that left her paraplegic, amputation of her left lower leg, among other injuries and complications that required prolonged hospitalization.[27] She was released from the hospital for the first time in March 2019.[28]

The president of Cuba's Church of the Nazarene confirmed that ten pastors from the church, and their spouses, were among the passengers that were killed in the crash.[29]

Nationality[13] Passengers Crew Total Fatalities
Cuba 102 0 102 101
Mexico 1 6 7 7
Argentina 2 0 2 2
Sahrawi Republic[a] 2 0 2 2
Total 107 6 113 112[30]

Investigation[edit]

President Miguel Díaz-Canel announced that a special commission had been formed to find the cause of the crash.[19] Both the United States' National Transportation Safety Board and Federal Aviation Administration have stated they would be able to offer assistance in the investigation, if requested.[17] The aircraft manufacturer Boeing said it was ready to send a technical team to Cuba "as permitted under US law and at the direction of the US National Transportation Safety Board and Cuban authorities".[4]

Transport Minister Adel Yzquierdo reported the recovery of the flight data recorder from the crash site on 19 May.[18] The cockpit voice recorder was located on 24 May.[31] Both were sent to the National Transportation Safety Board for analysis.[1][32]

On 19 May, the Mexican government announced that its National Civil Aviation Authority (DGAC) was to begin an operational audit of Global Air to see if the airline was in compliance with regulations,[33] and subsequently, on 21 May, the Mexican authorities temporarily suspended Global Air's operations.[34]

In the days following the crash, allegations were made by former workers and Cubana employees relating to Global Air's airworthiness, maintenance and safety record. Incidents involving the Guyana Civil Aviation Authority and Chilean Directorate General of Civil Aviation were reported: in 2017, for instance, XA-UHZ had been banned from Guyanese airspace due to its crew overloading the plane with luggage and stowing it improperly.[35][36][37]

Ovidio Martínez López, a pilot for Cubana for over 40 years until he retired in 2012, wrote in a Facebook post that a plane rented from the Mexican company by Cubana briefly dropped off radar while over the city of Santa Clara in 2010 or 2011, triggering an immediate response by Cuban aviation security officials. As a result, Cuban officials suspended a captain and co-pilot for "serious technical knowledge issues", and Cuba's Aviation Security authority issued a formal recommendation that Cubana stop renting planes and crews from Global Air, Martínez wrote.[38]

On 17 July, the aircraft owner Global Air released a statement that, following studies of the aircraft flight recorders by international experts, the cause of the accident had been determined as pilot error, explaining that the pilots had climbed at too high a rate, resulting in the aircraft stalling.[39] Mexico's civil aviation authority (DGAC) said it would not lift a suspension of Global Air's operations that the company was fighting to have removed, and that its counterpart in Cuba, the Civil Aviation Institute of Cuba (IACC), which was leading the investigation, had yet to issue any findings. Mexico's pilots union, Asociación Sindical de Pilotos Aviadores [es] (ASPA), said Global Air was "irresponsible" in releasing its statement before the investigation had been concluded, and that it did not take into account factors such as distribution of weight on the aircraft or possible equipment failures. ASPA's spokesman, Mauricio Aguilera, told domestic news outlet Milenio, "They're just looking to defend their interests."

On 16 May 2019, the Cuban Institute of Civil Aeronautics released a statement which said "The most probable cause of the accident were the actions of the crew and their errors in the calculations of weight and balance that led to loss of control of the plane and its fall during the takeoff phase."[40] They point out that the number of passengers in the forward cabin was given as 62 when it had capacity for 54, and the weight in the cargo compartments was "incorrect". Calculations also show that the fuel weight at take-off exceeded by some 5,000 pounds (2,300 kg).

The load sheet presented to the crew put the take-off weight at about 99,900 pounds (45,300 kg), but recalculation by investigators produced a figure of just over 104,000 pounds (47,000 kg), while the zero-fuel weight was wrong because the weight of luggage was lower than planned.[41]

Final report[edit]

IACC published its final report on the crash on 12 September 2019.[20]: 56  IACC determined that the most probable cause of the crash "was the collapse of the aircraft as a result of its entry into abnormal positions immediately after liftoff during the takeoff, which led to the loss of control of the plane due to a chain of errors, with a predominance of the human factor".[42] The report stated that the contributing human factors to this were "mostly due to inconsistencies in the crew's training, errors in weight and balance calculations and the low operational standards that were revealed during the flight", according to the translations by OnCuba News and Havana Times.[43][42]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ includes 1 Passenger with Dual Sahrawi Republic-Spain Citizenship

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Hradecky, Simon (18 May 2018). "Crash: Global Damojh B732 at Havana on May 18th 2018, lost height shortly after takeoff". The Aviation Herald. Retrieved 4 June 2018.
  2. ^ Fowler, Tara; Radia, Kirit (18 May 2018). "Jet with 104 passengers crashes just after takeoff in Cuba". ABC News.
  3. ^ Augustin, Ed (18 May 2018). "Cuba: about 100 feared dead in Havana plane crash". The Guardian. Retrieved 19 May 2018.
  4. ^ a b "Cuba plane crash leaves more than 100 dead". BBC News. 19 May 2018. Retrieved 19 May 2018.
  5. ^ Oppmann, Patrick; Sanchez, Ray (19 May 2018). "More than 100 killed in Cuba plane crash, state media reports". CNN.
  6. ^ "Accidente de la aeronave XA-UHZ ocurrido el día 18 de mayo de 2018" [Accident of the XA-UHZ aircraft occurred on May 18, 2018]. gob.mx (in Spanish). 18 May 2018.
  7. ^ a b c d e Perez, Santiago (18 May 2018). "More Than 100 Feared Dead in Plane Crash in Cuba". The Wall Street Journal. Archived from the original on 18 May 2018. Retrieved 18 May 2018.
  8. ^ a b c "19-year-old now sole survivor of Cuban plane crash". New Straits Times. 26 May 2018. Retrieved 27 May 2018.
  9. ^ a b c "Cubana de Aviación Flight 972 Accident description". Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved 19 May 2018.
  10. ^ Zhang, Benjamin (19 May 2018). "Boeing passenger jet with over 100 passengers crashes after taking off from Havana". Business Insider. Retrieved 19 May 2018.
  11. ^ a b "Boeing 737 – MSN 21816 – XA-UHZ: General information & flightlog". airfleets.net. Retrieved 26 June 2018.
  12. ^ a b c d Gladstone, Rick; Robles, Frances (18 May 2018). "More Than 100 Die as Aging Cuban Airliner Crashes". The New York Times. Retrieved 18 May 2018.
  13. ^ a b c "Listado de pasajeros de avión accidentado" [List of passengers of crashed plane]. Granma (in Spanish). 19 May 2018.
  14. ^ a b Whitefield, Mimi; Herrera, Chabeli (18 May 2018). "Cuban airplane with more than 100 aboard crashes shortly after take-off from Havana airport". Miami Herald.
  15. ^ Burke, Dave (25 May 2018). "Harrowing new Cuba plane crash CCTV footage shows final seconds of Boeing 737 which exploded killing 110". Daily Mirror.
  16. ^ "Decreta el Consejo de Estado duelo oficial en Cuba" [Decree the State Council official duel in Cuba]. Granma.cu (in European Spanish). Retrieved 22 July 2018.
  17. ^ a b Marsh, Sarah; Acosta, Nelson (18 May 2018). "Plane crashes in Cuba killing more than 100, investigation underway". Reuters. Retrieved 18 May 2018.
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  19. ^ a b "Cuba plane crash: Authorities examine aftermath". Stillwater News Press. Retrieved 19 May 2018.[permanent dead link]
  20. ^ a b "INFORME FINAL DEL ACCIDENTE OCURRIDO EL 18 DE MAYO DE 2018, DURANTE LA FASE DEL DESPEGUE A LA AERONAVE BOEING-737-201 ADV, MATRÍCULA XA-UHZ, PERTENECIENTE A AEROLÍNEAS DAMOJH, S.A. DE C.V., CON SEDE DE SUS OFICINAS PRINCIPALES EN CIUDAD DE MÉXICO, QUE CUBRÍA EL VUELO DMJ 0972, DESDE EL AEROPUERTO INTERNACIONAL JOSÉ MARTÍ DE LA HABANA, HACIA EL AEROPUERTO INTERNACIONAL FRANK PAÍS GARCÍA, DE HOLGUÍN, CUBA, CONTRATADO POR LA EMPRESA CUBANA DE AVIACIÓN EN MODALIDAD DE FULL CHARTER" [FINAL REPORT OF THE ACCIDENT OCCURRED ON MAY 18, 2018, DURING THE STAGE OF THE TAKEOFF TO THE BOEING-737-201 ADV, REGISTRATION XA-UHZ, BELONGING TO AEROLÍNEAS DAMOJH, S.A. DE CV, WITH ITS HEADQUARTERS HEADQUARTERS IN MEXICO CITY, WHICH COVERED FLIGHT DMJ 0972, FROM THE JOSÉ MARTÍ DE LA HABANA INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, TO THE FRANK PAÍS GARCÍA INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, HOLGUÍN, CUBA EMPLOYE, CUBA AVIATION IN FULL CHARTER MODE] (PDF). IACC.gob.cu (in Spanish). Civil Aviation Institute of Cuba. 12 September 2019. Archived (PDF) from the original on 29 August 2019.
  21. ^ "Autoridades cubanas identifican al piloto y el copiloto mexicanos que fallecieron en accidente de avión en La Habana" [Cuban authorities identify the Mexican pilot and copilot who died in a plane crash in Havana]. ZETA (in Spanish). 22 May 2018. Archived from the original on 23 May 2018. Retrieved 24 July 2021.
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  23. ^ "The Latest: Cuba says crash survivor dies; toll now at 111". Associated Press. 21 May 2018. Retrieved 21 May 2018.
  24. ^ "Cuba plane crash: Death toll rises to 111 as one survivor dies, two others still critical; cause yet unknown". Firstpost. 22 May 2018.
  25. ^ Acosta, Nelson (25 May 2018). "Muere Emiley Sánchez, una de las sobrevivientes del accidente aéreo en Cuba" [Emiley Sánchez, one of the survivors of the plane crash in Cuba, dies]. www.cibercuba.com (in Spanish). Reuters. Retrieved 26 May 2018.
  26. ^ "Another Cuba plane crash survivor dies, death toll rises to 112". Reuters. Editorial. 25 May 2018.
  27. ^ Rodríguez, José Alejandro; Rodríguez, Maykel Espinosa (19 August 2018). "La historia de la única sobreviviente del accidente aéreo en Cuba" [The story of the only survivor of the aviation accident in Cuba] (in Spanish). Retrieved 29 August 2018.
  28. ^ "Maylén Díaz Almaguer, ¡por primera vez fuera del hospital!" [Maylen Diaz Almaguer, Out of the Hospital for the First Time!]. cuballama.com (in Spanish). 20 March 2019. Retrieved 30 June 2019.
  29. ^ Morgan Lee (21 May 2018). "20 Cuban Pastors and Spouses Killed in Plane Crash". Christianity Today. Retrieved 22 May 2018.
  30. ^ "Cuba plane crash toll rises to 112 with death of survivor". WGN TV. 25 May 2018. Retrieved 25 May 2018.
  31. ^ "Second black box located from Cuba plane crash". The Times (South Africa). 25 May 2018.
  32. ^ "Accidente aeronave XA-UHZ de Aerolíneas Damojh ("Global Air") reporte al 8 de junio de 2018" [Aircraft accident XA-UHZ of Damojh Airlines ("Global Air") report as of June 8, 2018]. gob.mx (in Spanish). Secretaría de Comunicaciones y Transportes. Archived from the original on 2 July 2018. Retrieved 19 September 2019.
  33. ^ "Company Behind Cuba Plane Crash Was Subject of 2 Previous Performance Complaints". Time. Archived from the original on 21 May 2018. Retrieved 21 May 2018.
  34. ^ "Dirección General de Aeronáutica Civil Boletín Informativo" [General Directorate of Civil Aeronautics Newsletter]. gob.mx (in Spanish). Secretaría de Comunicaciones y Transportes. Retrieved 25 May 2018.
  35. ^ "Cuba plane crash: Damojh company 'had safety complaints'". BBC News. 20 May 2018. Retrieved 21 May 2018.
  36. ^ Weissenstein, Michael; Wilkinson, Bert (21 May 2018). "Company in Cuba plane crash had received safety complaints". Associated Press.
  37. ^ Gómez, Alma (19 May 2018). "Avionazo se veía venir, afirma expiloto de Global Air" [Plane crash was seen coming, says ex-pilot of Global Air]. www.eluniversal.com (in Spanish). El Universal. Retrieved 3 July 2018.
  38. ^ Weissenstein, Michael (20 May 2018). "Company Behind Cuba Plane Crash Was Subject of 2 Previous Performance Complaints". TIME. Archived from the original on 21 May 2018.
  39. ^ "Cuba Boeing 737 crash caused by human error – company says". 17 July 2018. Retrieved 17 July 2018.
  40. ^ "Cuba Blames Plane Crew for Deadly 2018 Crash". The New York Times. Reuters. 16 May 2019. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 16 May 2019.
  41. ^ "Cuban probe details balance errors behind fatal 737 crash". Flightglobal. 16 May 2019. Retrieved 12 September 2019.
  42. ^ a b "Plane crash in Havana was due to "chain of errors"". OnCuba News. 13 September 2019. Retrieved 24 May 2020.
  43. ^ Ibarra, Glenda Boza; Garcia, Ana Lidia (30 September 2019). "Final Report on Last Year's Horrific Airplane Crash in Havana". Havana Times. Retrieved 24 May 2020.