Santa Bárbara Airlines Flight 518

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Santa Bárbara Airlines Flight 518
Santa Barbara Airlines ATR 42-300 YV1449.jpg
YV1449, the aircraft involved in the accident, few days before the crash
Date21 February 2008 (2008-02-21)
SummaryControlled flight into terrain due to pilot error and navigational error
SiteNorthwest of Alberto Carnevalli Airport, Mérida, Venezuela
8°39′33″N 71°14′17″W / 8.65917°N 71.23806°W / 8.65917; -71.23806Coordinates: 8°39′33″N 71°14′17″W / 8.65917°N 71.23806°W / 8.65917; -71.23806
Aircraft typeATR 42-300
OperatorSanta Bárbara Airlines
IATA flight No.S3518
ICAO flight No.BBR518
Call signSANTA BARBARA 518
Flight originAlberto Carnevalli Airport, Mérida, Venezuela
DestinationSimón Bolívar International Airport, Caracas, Venezuela

Santa Bárbara Airlines Flight 518 was an ATR 42–300 twin-turboprop aircraft, registration YV1449, operating as a scheduled domestic flight from Mérida, Venezuela, to Caracas that crashed into the side of a mountain on 21 February 2008, shortly after take-off.[1][2] There were 43 passengers on board, with a crew consisting of two pilots and a flight attendant.[3] The wreckage was discovered a day later with no survivors.[4] It was the deadliest aviation accident involving an ATR 42 until Trigana Air Flight 267 crashed in Papua, Indonesia, in 2015 with 54 deaths.[5]

Flight history[edit]

Mérida, a university and tourist town located high in the Andes mountains, is surrounded by higher terrain with night flights prohibited at the nearby Alberto Carnevalli Airport. On 21 February 2008, Flight 518 was the last scheduled flight out of the airport, departing at about 17:00 local time. On the flight deck was Captain Aldino Garanito Gomez (36), a senior pilot for the airline and flight instructor with more than 5,000 flight hours logged, and First Officer Denis Ferreira Quintal (29).

Shortly after take-off, the twin-turboprop slammed into a sheer 4,000-metre (13,000 ft) rock wall called "Indian Face" (Spanish: La Cara del Indio). No distress calls were received from the aircraft prior to impact.[6][7]

Crash site[edit]

Santa Bárbara Airlines Flight 518 is located in Venezuela
Santa Bárbara Airlines Flight 518
Accident location shown within Venezuela

Antonio Rivero, national director of civil defense, said rescuers had identified the site of the crash in the south-western state of Mérida. Civil defense regional chief Gerardo Rojas stated that rescue crews were racing to the poorly-accessible crash site in the Andes Mountains.[8] Mountain villagers reported hearing a tremendous noise they thought could be from a crash soon after the disappearance and loss of contact with Flight 518. According to local police, the wreckage of the aircraft was located at Páramo de Mucuchíes, in the sector of Collao del Cóndor, Páramo Piedra Blanca, near the Laguna de la Perlada. The search operation was conducted from the regional hub city of Barinas in western Venezuela.

Air-rescue services said that the airliner crashed 10 kilometres (6 mi) from the mountain city of Mérida after take-off. Searchers spotted the wreckage of the plane carrying 43 passengers and 3 crew members in the mountains of western Venezuela on Friday, 22 February 2008. Fire-fighter Sgt. Jhonny Paz said officials believed there were no survivors and were sending a helicopter to the site of the accident after a refueling stop. "The impact was direct. The aircraft is practically pulverized," he told the Venezuelan television station Globovisión.[9] At the national civil aeronautical institute, General Ramón Vinas confirmed that, "by the type of impact, we presume that there are no survivors".[10]


As search-and-rescue activities were underway, local media published the passenger list of Sánta Barbara Airlines Flight 518.[11] Most of the victims were Venezuelan; three Colombians and an American also died in the crash.[12]

Family members and friends of the victims created a website with information related to the crash and its victims.[13]

Nationality Passengers Crew Total
Venezuela 37 3 40
Colombia 5 0 5
United States 1 0 1
Total 43 3 46


The Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR/"black box") was successfully recovered from the wreckage. Preliminary information released on 28 July 2008, indicates the crew departed Mérida with inoperative navigation equipment and subsequently became disoriented in the mountainous terrain surrounding the airport, crashing into the side of a mountain[14] while trying to determine their location.[15] Subsequent investigation concluded that the pilots took off without conducting the mandatory pre-flight procedures and used an unauthorised departure route.

A report by LagAd Aviation determined that the cause of the accident was the omission or improper use of the checklists and procedures critical to the operation of the flight, causing the Attitude and Heading Reference System (AHRS) to not be initialized prior to the take-off roll. The pilots wanted to meet the schedule after experiencing some delays, including losing track of time while having coffee in the terminal, then finding that the passengers were already on board the plane. The time pressure was a factor that led the pilots to omit the use of the checklists and perform the pre-takeoff so fast that it was impossible to perform the necessary verification procedures to ensure safety. The second cause of the accident was the decision to take off when they had already become aware that the AHRS was inoperative, due to the overconfidence of the pilots, as the captain had avoided catastrophe on a previous flight when proceeding without AHRS from the same airport.[15] From the moment power is turned on, the aircraft must sit stationary for 180 seconds for the AHRS to synchronize its settings, which is not an issue given how long the pilots will take to complete their checklists; instead, these pilots rushed their checklist, skipped some steps, and knowingly chose to begin their take-off rather than wait an additional 28 seconds for the AHRS to be synchronized.[16] Flying without the AHRS meant that the pilots could not maintain the correct heading in the limited visibility of clouds on their ascent.[17]

Cockpit voice recording[edit]

The following is an English translation of the CVR transcript (original in Spanish):[15][18]

Television portrayal[edit]

The crash of Flight 518 was covered in "28 Seconds To Survive", a Season 12 (2013) episode of the internationally syndicated Canadian TV documentary series Mayday.[16] The documentary points out that the crash led authorities to deem the airport too dangerous for commercial flights, which were suspended. Commercial service resumed in 2014, after being suspended for five years.[19]


  1. ^ Ranter, Harro. "ASN Aircraft accident ATR 42-300 YV1449 Mérida-A Carnevalli Airport (MRD)". Aviation Safety Network.
  2. ^ "Jetliner reported missing in Venezuela". CNN. 22 February 2008. Retrieved 22 February 2008.
  3. ^ "Plane Carrying 46 Missing in Venezuela". 21 February 2008. Archived from the original on 15 March 2008. Retrieved 21 February 2008.
  4. ^ "'No survivors' in Venezuelan plane crash: officials". Agence France Presse (AFP). 22 February 2008. Archived from the original on 15 October 2008. Retrieved 22 February 2008.
  5. ^ Ranter, Harro. "ASN Aircraft accident ATR 42-300 PK-YRN Oksibil Airport (OKL)". Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved 1 February 2021.
  6. ^ "Rescuers find Venezuela plane crash black boxes". Reuters. 24 February 2008. Retrieved 28 February 2008.
  7. ^ "Venezuela begins recovering bodies from Andean plane crash". The New York Times. Associated Press. 24 February 2008. Retrieved 28 February 2008.
  8. ^ "Wreckage of Venezuelan airliner spotted". 22 February 2008. Retrieved 22 February 2008.
  9. ^ "Plane Crash Site in Venezuela Found". Associated Press. 22 February 2008. Archived from the original on 25 February 2008. Retrieved 28 February 2008.
  10. ^ Rueda, Jorge (22 February 2008). "Venezuela Plane Crash Kills 46". The Associated Press. Archived from the original on 4 November 2012. Retrieved 24 February 2008.
  11. ^ "Passenger Manifest of Santa Barbara Airlines Flight 508". 22 February 2008. Archived from the original on 25 February 2008. Retrieved 22 February 2008.
  12. ^ "Venezuela crash data boxes found." BBC, 23 February 2008. Retrieved on 28 February 2008.
  13. ^ "Vuelo 518" [Flight 518] (in Spanish). Retrieved 31 December 2016.
  14. ^ Illustration of flight paths
  15. ^ a b c Transcriben conversación de Caja Negra de vuelo de Mérida Archived 9 August 2008 at the Wayback Machine [Transcript of conversation of Merida flight's black box] (in Spanish)
  16. ^ a b "28 Seconds To Survive". Mayday. Season 12. Episode 12. Cineflix. 1 April 2013. Discovery Channel Canada.
  17. ^ "Análisis del Accidente del Vuelo 518 de Santa Bárbara Airlines" [Analysis of the Santa Barbara Airlines Flight 518 Accident] (in Spanish). Retrieved 31 December 2016.
  18. ^ CVR audio (Archive)
  19. ^ "Agencia Venezolana de Noticias". Retrieved 31 October 2019.

External links[edit]

External images
image icon "ATR-42-300 YV1449" pictures from
image icon "ATR-42-300 YV1449" pictures from