Santa Bárbara Airlines Flight 518
|Date||21 February 2008|
|Summary||Controlled flight into terrain due to pilot error and navigational error|
|Site||Northwest of Alberto Carnevalli Airport, Mérida, Venezuela |
|Aircraft type||ATR 42-300|
|Operator||Santa Bárbara Airlines|
|IATA flight No.||S3518|
|ICAO flight No.||BBR518|
|Call sign||SANTA BARBARA 518|
|Flight origin||Alberto Carnevalli Airport, Mérida, Venezuela|
|Destination||Simón 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. There were 43 passengers on board, with a crew consisting of two pilots and a flight attendant. The wreckage was discovered a day later with no survivors. It was the deadliest aviation accident involving an ATR 42 until Trigana Air Flight 267 crashed in Papua, Indonesia, in 2015 with 54 deaths.
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.
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. 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. At the national civil aeronautical institute, General Ramón Vinas confirmed that, "by the type of impact, we presume that there are no survivors".
As search-and-rescue activities were underway, local media published the passenger list of Sánta Barbara Airlines Flight 518. Most of the victims were Venezuelan; three Colombians and an American also died in the crash.
Family members and friends of the victims created a website with information related to the crash and its victims.
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 while trying to determine their location. 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. 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. Flying without the AHRS meant that the pilots could not maintain the correct heading in the limited visibility of clouds on their ascent.
Cockpit voice recording
|Transcript of CVR Including Communication with Air Traffic Control|
|TWR: Tower, CAM 1: Captain, CAM 2: Copilot, ROI116: Avior 1116 (a nearby flight), GPWS=Ground Proximity Warning System|
|CAM 2||Mérida Tower, good afternoon. Santa Barbara 518 is requesting startup and clearance for proposed flight to Maiquetia, tower 518.|
|TWR||518, once doors closed startup is approved, altimeter 1018. Be advised a B190 of Avior two minutes ago checked over Lagunillas.|
|CAM 2||Roger with Avior via Lagunillas. QNH 1018, startup clearance received and doors closing, and expecting taxi clearance to runway 24. Santa Barbara 518.|
|CAM 1||If possible, keep on the concrete ramp!|
|CAM 2||Mérida, Barbara 518 requests 180 turn to stay on the concrete.|
|CAM 1||If possible, keep on the concrete ramp.|
|TWR||Standby for immediate taxi and Avior's position...|
|TWR||Avior 1116 Mérida, position?|
|ROI1116||We are 8 miles out, confirming 8 miles outside Lagunillas, through 110 to 9 thousand feet. No problem, you can clear the Barbara and we'll contact you inbound.|
|TWR||So we'll clear for takeoff (BBR 518) while you contact us when inbound.|
|TWR||Barbara 518, expedite your taxi to (runway) 24 and contact when ready for takeoff.|
|CAM 2||Expediting taxi to (runway) 24 and we'll call when ready for takeoff. Santa Barbara 518.|
|CAM 1||Look at this shit.|
|CAM 2||Clearance for Santa Barbara 518.|
|TWR||We are still waiting on the clearance.|
|CAM 1||It's going to be a hell this shit. We'll have to reset it during flight, what a crap!|
|CAM 2||We'll go visual|
|CAM 1||We'll take off in the dark. Fuck! We didn't see this shit! I won't touch it; these gyros are fucked up again. The other day we also skipped this and we had to leave them like this.|
|TWR||Barbara 518, Maiquetia cleared you to 190, direct airport, 1655.|
|CAM 2||Maiquetia Center clears Barbara 518 to Maiquetia W8 1-9-0, transponder 1655, Barbara 518 180 ready for departure.|
|TWR||Roger, winds 220 at 08, cleared for takeoff.|
|CAM 2||Cleared for takeoff Runway 24, Santa Barbara 518.|
|CAM 1||We can't see shit; if we can fix it we'll go visual. We'll fix it in flight.|
|CAM 1||We're ready to go; you have the controls if you want.|
|CAM 1||Power set... positive|
|CAM 2||Gear up. We're up|
|TWR||Avior 1116. Traffic airborne right now.|
|ROI1116||Roger, 1116 is inbound over Lagunillas.|
|CAM 1||Roger. And as complementary information from us we'll be a bit closer to the northern mountains my friend, so you'll have a chance.|
|ROI1116||Roger my friend, so we'll keep closer to the southern mountains.|
|CAM 1||Go ahead.|
|CAM 2||Let's keep white bugs + 10|
|CAM 1||The same shit of the other day.|
|CAM 2||The units are fucked up.|
|CAM 1||The last time was like this, we had to wait until...|
|CAM 2||Level at 400 feet|
|CAM 1||We're visual|
|CAM 1||If you want we can start to turn, Denis.|
|CAM 1||This way... it's better|
|CAM 1||I passed by here...(Laughs)|
|CAM 1||Let's keep this heading... Ok? And let's try to keep 141, Denis.|
|CAM 2||And manual...|
|CAM 1||Turn a bit more to see if this compass works and keep it right there.|
|CAM 1||Let it there.|
|CAM 1||Denis, a bit more to the right.|
|CAM 2||To the right?|
|CAM 1||Yes, get to zero six seven (067)|
|CAM 2||Zero seven three (073)
|CAM 1||Denis, Denis!
(The captain takes control of the airplane)
|CAM 2||We're at 074, aren't we?|
|TWR||518 Airborne 2 9 contact (over) Observatory. Did I clear you?
(GPWS sounds again)
|CAM 2||That's correct, sir. (GPWS sounds again)(GPWS sounds again)|
|CAM 2||Aldino, Aldino. Go that way, are we at?|
|CAM 2||Aldino, Aldino, we're at 318 not 17... Aldino? Aldino! (GPWS sounds again)|
|CAM 2||Aldino, shit we're at 318.|
|CAM 1||What the fuck do you want? Turn to the right? (GPWS sounds again)|
|CAM 2||Aldino take that way!|
|CAM 1||Fuck, Denis... For Christ's sake!|
|CAM 2||Aldino let's turn 360 backwards. We're going down!|
|CAM 1||Denis... For Christ's sake! (Stick Shaker Activates)|
|CAM 1||Hold on, hold on.|
|CAM 1||Easy Denis, Easy. (Sound of Crash)|
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. 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.
- Ranter, Harro. "ASN Aircraft accident ATR 42-300 YV1449 Mérida-A Carnevalli Airport (MRD)". aviation-safety.net. Aviation Safety Network.
- "Jetliner reported missing in Venezuela". CNN. 22 February 2008. Retrieved 22 February 2008.
- "Plane Carrying 46 Missing in Venezuela". 21 February 2008. Archived from the original on 15 March 2008. Retrieved 21 February 2008.
- "'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.
- Ranter, Harro. "ASN Aircraft accident ATR 42-300 PK-YRN Oksibil Airport (OKL)". aviation-safety.net. Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved 1 February 2021.
- "Rescuers find Venezuela plane crash black boxes". Reuters. 24 February 2008. Retrieved 28 February 2008.
- "Venezuela begins recovering bodies from Andean plane crash". The New York Times. Associated Press. 24 February 2008. Retrieved 28 February 2008.
- "Wreckage of Venezuelan airliner spotted". Thaindian.com. 22 February 2008. Retrieved 22 February 2008.
- "Plane Crash Site in Venezuela Found". Associated Press. 22 February 2008. Archived from the original on 25 February 2008. Retrieved 28 February 2008.
- Rueda, Jorge (22 February 2008). "Venezuela Plane Crash Kills 46". The Associated Press. washingtonpost.com. Archived from the original on 4 November 2012. Retrieved 24 February 2008.
- "Passenger Manifest of Santa Barbara Airlines Flight 508". laverdad.com. 22 February 2008. Archived from the original on 25 February 2008. Retrieved 22 February 2008.
- "Venezuela crash data boxes found." BBC, 23 February 2008. Retrieved on 28 February 2008.
- "Vuelo 518" [Flight 518] (in Spanish). Retrieved 31 December 2016.
- Illustration of flight paths
- 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)
- "28 Seconds To Survive". Mayday. Season 12. Episode 12. Cineflix. 1 April 2013. Discovery Channel Canada.
- "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.
- CVR audio (Archive)
- "Agencia Venezolana de Noticias". www.avn.info.ve. Retrieved 31 October 2019.
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