Kenya Airways Flight 507
The aircraft involved in the accident is seen here at OR Tambo International Airport in January 2007 .
|Date||5 May 2007|
|Summary||Pilot error, spatial disorientation|
|Site||Mbanga Pongo, in the Douala III subdivision, 5.42 km south (176°) of the end of Douala airport runway 12
|Aircraft type||Boeing 737-8AL|
|Flight origin||Port Bouet Airport|
|Last stopover||Douala International Airport|
|Destination||Jomo Kenyatta International Airport|
Kenya Airways Flight 507 was a scheduled Abidjan–Douala–Nairobi passenger service, operated with a Boeing 737-800, that crashed in the initial stage of its second leg on 5 May 2007, immediately after takeoff from Douala International Airport.
The plane broke up into small pieces and came to rest mostly submerged in a mangrove swamp, 5.4 kilometres (3.4 mi) to the south (176°) of the end of the Douala International Airport's runway 12. There were no survivors. The investigation by the Cameroon Civil Aviation Authority determined that the pilots failed to notice and correct excessive bank following takeoff. This led to the loss of control and crash of the aircraft.
The aircraft involved in the accident, registration 5Y-KYA (serial number 35069), was a Boeing 737-8AL that was equipped with twin CFMI CFM56-7B26 powerplants. The airframe first flew on 9 October 2006, and was delivered to Kenya Airways on 27 October the same year. The aircraft was six months old at the time of the accident. It was one of three Boeing 737-800s Kenya Airways had recently acquired from Singapore Aircraft Leasing Enterprise. The 52-year-old pilot in command—who had logged 8,500 hours on jetliners—and co-pilot (aged 23) had joined the airline 20 years and one year, respectively, before the accident.
Flight 507 was one of three scheduled to depart from Douala Airport around midnight that day, with two other flights operated by Cameroon Airlines and Royal Air Maroc. The aircrew of the Cameroonian and the Moroccan companies elected to wait for the weather to improve, while the Kenya Airways crew decided to depart, perhaps because they had already been delayed over an hour.
The aircraft departed Douala at 23:06 GMT on 5 May (00:06 on 6 may local time); the flight was due to arrive in Nairobi at 03:15 GMT (06:15 local time). Contact with the plane was lost soon after takeoff from Douala. Kenya Airways set up a crisis management center at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi.
On 7 May, Cameroon's state radio interrupted broadcasts to report that the wreckage of the plane had been found near Mvengue, southwest of the capital Yaoundé, only to say later it could not confirm the report. Later that day, Kenya Airways officials reported that the wreckage of the aircraft had been found 5.42 kilometres (3.37 mi) south (176°) of the end of the airport's runway 12, some 120 kilometres (75 mi) from the site mentioned in the earlier radio broadcasts. The wreckage was found on 6 May in a swamp, some 20 kilometres (12 mi) southeast of Douala, submerged under mud and water. There were no survivors. Furthermore, Kenya Airways Group managing director Titus Naikuni said in Nairobi that local people had led rescuers to the crash site. "We are told the aircraft was covered by a canopy of trees, and that was the delay in sighting the crash site", he said. Cameroon's Minister of State for Territorial Administration Hamidou Yaya Marafa told a news conference that day, "All I can say for now is that the wreckage of the plane has been located in the small village of Mbanga Pongo, in the Douala III subdivision. We are putting in place rescue measures." Civil Protection Service of Cameroon's Director Jean-Pierre Nana claimed that "there are no chances that there will be any survivors because almost the entire body of the plane was buried inside the swamp". Kenya Airways reported that 29 bodies had been recovered from the crash site, while reports from Cameroon claimed that over 40 had been recovered. Workers reported that the bodies were "badly disfigured" and that identification would be difficult. Heavy rains in the area continued to hamper all efforts.
Passengers and crew
Kenya Airways disclosed a passenger list indicating that the 105 passengers on board were citizens of 26 different countries, most of them from Cameroon; nine of the occupants were Kenyan. Seventeen passengers boarded in Abidjan, while the rest did so in Douala.
|Central African Republic||2||0||2|
|Democratic Republic of the Congo||2||0||2|
|Republic of the Congo||1||0||1|
- Campbell Utton – CEO MTN Group Cameroon
- Sarah Stewart – CFO MTN Group Cameroon
- Amol Chauhan – Director of Parle Products, India
- Anthony Mitchell – Associated Press reporter based in Kenya
- Siaka Diarra – President West African Frenchspeaking Zone, African Union of the Blind, President Association of the Blind Burkina Faso
The Cameroonian government established a technical commission of inquiry to investigate the accident. The National Transportation Safety Board of the United States sent a go-team to assist with the investigation.
Early attention as to the cause of the crash centred on the possibility of dual engine flameout during heavy weather. Several clues pointed in this direction, including the time the plane was in the air, the distress call issued by the aircraft (both later disputed), the meteorological conditions at the time of the crash, and the nose-down position of the wreckage. The investigators theorised that this would be consistent with the plane losing power in both engines, attempting to glide back to the airport, and stalling during the attempt. Other experts theorised that lightning had played a role in the crash.
On 8 May 2007, "Kenya Airways chief pilot James Ouma told a news conference in Nairobi that Kenyan investigators believe the jet crashed about 30 seconds after takeoff. Officials in Cameroon said earlier that they lost contact with the jet 11–13 minutes into the flight."
The flight data recorder (FDR) was recovered on 7 May. Kenya subsequently requested that the black box be analysed in Canada, rather than in the United States or in any European country,[additional citation needed] because of the ongoing "conflict" between Boeing versus Airbus in the global airliner marketplace. Kenya also stressed that Canada's bilingual nature would ease communications between it, French-speaking Cameroon, and English-speaking Kenya. The analysis did take place in Canada and was completed on 30 May 2007, though the results of the analysis were not immediately disclosed because only Cameroon may release such data per the Convention on International Civil Aviation.
On 12 May 2007, DNA testing of relatives of the victims began in Douala. It was later revealed that DNA testing would be conducted in Bosnia, given the neutrality of the country regarding the nationality of the victims.
The cockpit voice recorder took much longer to locate, as it was buried in 15 metres (49 ft) of mud, amidst the wreckage of the cockpit. It was eventually located on 15 June 2007 and prepared for transport to Canada for examination as the black box had been.
On 29 June 2007, an article appeared in the Business Daily Africa that said that the pilots had been exonerated from blame in the crash. The article did not state who had exonerated them or why. The article also said that examination of the black box showed no mechanical failures on the plane, implied that weather was the sole reason for the crash, and that the cockpit voice recorder had not yet been recovered, despite widespread reporting 13 days earlier that it had been.
The Cameroon Civil Aviation Authority (CCAA) released its final report of the crash on 28 April 2010. The investigation found that the aircraft departed without receiving clearance from air traffic control. The captain, who was the flying pilot, corrected a right bank several times after takeoff. After 42 seconds of flight, the captain gave a command indicating that he activated the autopilot. The autopilot did not actually engage, however, nor was the command acknowledged by the copilot. The pilots did not notice that the aircraft was increasingly banking to the right from 11° when the captain indicated that he had set the autopilot to 34° when a bank angle warning sounded 40 seconds later. The captain then activated the autopilot, but his inputs on the controls led to a further increase in the bank angle. The aircraft pitched nose down after it reached a height of 2,900 feet (880 m) with a 115° right bank. The two pilots used opposite and conflicting control inputs to attempt to recover the aircraft. The aircraft crashed at 287 knots (532 km/h; 330 mph), at 48° down pitch and 60° right bank 1:42 after take off.
The CCAA determined the probable causes of the crash to be "loss of control of the aircraft as a result of spatial disorientation . . . after a long slow roll, during which no instrument scanning was done, and in the absence of external visual references in a dark night. Inadequate operational control, lack of crew coordination, coupled with the non-adherence to procedures of flight monitoring, confusion in the utilization of the autopilot, have also contributed to cause this situation."
- Accident description at the Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved on 15 June 2011.
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- "DECLARATION OF THE MINISTER OF STATE, MINISTER OF TRANSPORT." (Archive)
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- Kenya Airways website information
- 9 May: http://web.archive.org/web/20070509002518/http://220.127.116.11/ (Archive)
- 13 May: http://web.archive.org/web/20070513121401/http://18.104.22.168/index.html (Archive)
- 16 May: http://web.archive.org/web/20070516121429/http://22.214.171.124/ (Archive)
- "Full list of Passengers on Flight KQ 507." (Archive)
- NTSB Factual Report (PDF)
- Reconstructing the last moments of Kenya Airways Flight 507 11 May 2007 IHT