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
Date May 18, 2018
Summary Crashed during climb out, under investigation
Site Santiago 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 type Boeing 737-201 Adv.
Operator Global Air on behalf of Cubana de Aviación
IATA flight No. CU972
ICAO flight No. CUB972
Call sign CUBANA 972
Registration XA-UHZ
Flight origin José Martí International Airport
Havana, Cuba
Destination Frank País Airport
Holguín, Cuba
Occupants 113
Passengers 107
Crew 6
Fatalities 112
Injuries 1
Survivors 1

Cubana de Aviación Flight 972 was a scheduled domestic flight from José Martí International Airport, Havana, Cuba, to Frank País Airport in Holguín, Cuba. On May 18, 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) 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 in hospital. Most of the victims were Cuban.

The site was visited by prominent officials soon after the crash, followed by a call for mourning and for flags to be flown at half-mast. Because the craft was American made, the United States offered to help Cuban authorities investigate the crash. This offer was accepted,[citation needed] and the investigation is ongoing.


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's inaugural flight was 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]


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 9646 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 May 25, showing the final moments of the aircraft before the crash, from a nearby location.[15]


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 May 19 to 12 midnight on May 20,[16] with flags to fly at half-mast outside government and military installations.[17]

Relatives have been 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]

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][20] One passenger who initially survived the crash died three days later, on May 21,[21][22] and another died on May 25.[23][24] In total, 112 people, including all crew members, were killed in the accident; passenger Maylen Díaz Almaguer, a Cuban national, remained as the only survivor of the crash.[8] Díaz Almaguer was 70 days in an intensive care unit due to her severe injuries. 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.[25]

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.[26]

Nationality[13] Passengers Crew Total Fatalities
 Cuba 102 0 102 101
 Mexico 1 6 7 7
 Argentina 2 0 2 2
 Sahrawi Republic/ Spain 1 0 1 1
 Sahrawi Republic 1 0 1 1
Total 107 6 113 112[27]


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 is 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 May 19.[18] The cockpit voice recorder was located on May 24.[28]

On May 19, 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,[29] and subsequently, on May 21, the Mexican authorities temporarily suspended their operations.[30]

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.[31][32][33]

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.[34]

On July 17, 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.[35] 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, 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." As of 18 July 2018, Cuban, Mexican and U.S. authorities had yet to release the results of their investigation into the crash.[36]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Hradecky, Simon (May 18, 2018). "Crash: Global Damojh B732 at Havana on May 18th 2018, lost height shortly after takeoff". The Aviation Herald. Retrieved June 4, 2018.
  2. ^ Fowler, Tara; Radia, Kirit (May 18, 2018). "Jet with 104 passengers crashes just after takeoff in Cuba". ABC News.
  3. ^ Augustin, Ed (May 18, 2018). "Cuba: about 100 feared dead in Havana plane crash". The Guardian. Retrieved May 19, 2018.
  4. ^ a b "Cuba plane crash leaves more than 100 dead". BBC News. May 19, 2018. Retrieved May 19, 2018.
  5. ^ Oppmann, Patrick; Sanchez, Ray (May 19, 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]. (in Spanish). May 18, 2018.
  7. ^ a b c d e Perez, Santiago (May 18, 2018). "More Than 100 Feared Dead in Plane Crash in Cuba". The Wall Street Journal. Archived from the original on 2018-05-18. Retrieved May 18, 2018.
  8. ^ a b c "19-year-old now sole survivor of Cuban plane crash". New Straits Times. May 26, 2018. Retrieved May 27, 2018.
  9. ^ a b c "Cubana de Aviación Flight 972 Accident description". Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved May 19, 2018.
  10. ^ Zhang, Benjamin (May 19, 2018). "Boeing passenger jet with over 100 passengers crashes after taking off from Havana". Business Insider. Retrieved May 19, 2018.
  11. ^ a b "Boeing 737 – MSN 21816 – XA-UHZ: General information & flightlog". Retrieved June 26, 2018.
  12. ^ a b c d Gladstone, Rick; Robles, Frances (May 18, 2018). "More Than 100 Die as Aging Cuban Airliner Crashes". The New York Times. Retrieved May 18, 2018.
  13. ^ a b c "Listado de pasajeros de avión accidentado" [List of passengers of crashed plane]. Granma (in Spanish). May 19, 2018.
  14. ^ a b Whitefield, Mimi; Herrera, Chabeli (May 18, 2018). "Cuban airplane with more than 100 aboard crashes shortly after take-off from Havana airport". Miami Herald.
  15. ^ Dave Burke (May 25, 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". (in Spanish). Retrieved 2018-07-22.
  17. ^ a b Marsh, Sarah; Acosta, Nelson (May 18, 2018). "Plane crashes in Cuba killing more than 100, investigation underway". Reuters. Retrieved May 18, 2018.
  18. ^ a b "Cuba plane crash: Black box recovered in 'good condition'". BBC News. May 19, 2018. Retrieved May 19, 2018.
  19. ^ a b "Cuba plane crash: Authorities examine aftermath". Stillwater News Press. Retrieved May 19, 2018.[permanent dead link]
  20. ^ Ries, Brian; Rocha, Veronica (May 18, 2018). "Plane crashes in Havana with over 100 on board". CNN.
  21. ^ "The Latest: Cuba says crash survivor dies; toll now at 111". Associated Press. May 21, 2018. Retrieved May 21, 2018.
  22. ^ "Cuba plane crash: Death toll rises to 111 as one survivor dies, two others still critical; cause yet unknown". Firstpost. May 22, 2018.
  23. ^ Acosta, Nelson (May 25, 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]. (in Spanish). Reuters. Retrieved May 26, 2018.
  24. ^ Editorial (May 25, 2018). "Another Cuba plane crash survivor dies, death toll rises to 112". Reuters.
  25. ^ José Alejandro Rodríguez, Maykel Espinosa Rodríguez (August 19, 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 August 29, 2018.
  26. ^ Morgan Lee (May 21, 2018). "20 Cuban Pastors and Spouses Killed in Plane Crash". Christianity Today. Retrieved May 22, 2018.
  27. ^ "Cuba plane crash toll rises to 112 with death of survivor". WGN TV. May 25, 2018. Retrieved May 25, 2018.
  28. ^ "Second black box located from Cuba plane crash". The Times (South Africa). May 25, 2018.
  29. ^ "Company Behind Cuba Plane Crash Was Subject of 2 Previous Performance Complaints". Time. Archived from the original on May 21, 2018. Retrieved May 21, 2018.
  30. ^ "Dirección General de Aeronáutica Civil Boletín Informativo" [General Directorate of Civil Aeronautics Newsletter]. (in Spanish). Secretaría de Comunicaciones y Transportes. Retrieved May 25, 2018.
  31. ^ "Cuba plane crash: Damojh company 'had safety complaints'". BBC News. May 20, 2018. Retrieved May 21, 2018.
  32. ^ Weissenstein, Michael; Wilkinson, Bert (May 21, 2018). "Company in Cuba plane crash had received safety complaints". Associated Press.
  33. ^ Gómez, Alma (May 19, 2018). "Avionazo se veía venir, afirma expiloto de Global Air" [Plane crash was seen coming, says ex-pilot of Global Air]. (in Spanish). El Universal. Retrieved July 3, 2018.
  34. ^ Weissenstein, Michael (May 20, 2018). "Company Behind Cuba Plane Crash Was Subject of 2 Previous Performance Complaints". TIME. Archived from the original on May 21, 2018.
  35. ^ "Cuba Boeing 737 crash caused by human error – company says". 17 July 2018. Retrieved 17 July 2018.
  36. ^ "Mexican leasing firm Damojh blames plane crew for Cuba crash". Stabroek News. July 18, 2018. Retrieved July 18, 2018.