|Date||19 September 1976|
|Summary||Controlled flight into terrain due to pilot error|
|Site||Karatepe, Isparta, Turkey|
|Aircraft type||Boeing 727-200|
|Flight origin||Istanbul Atatürk Airport (IST/LTBA)|
|Destination||Antalya Airport (AYT/LTAI)|
Turkish Airlines Flight 452 was a scheduled domestic passenger flight operated by a Boeing 727-2F2 of Turkish Airlines that crashed near Isparta on 19 September 1976 while en route from Istanbul Atatürk Airport (IST/LTBA) to Antalya Airport (AYT/LTAI), killing all 144 passengers and 11 crew members on board. The crash is the deadliest aviation accident in Turkey's history.
The aircraft arrived in Istanbul from Italy and took off again at 22:45 local time. The pilots started descending towards Antalya at 23:11 with the captain in the passenger cabin. The plane crashed at around 23:20 into the Karatepe Hill near Isparta, about 100 kilometres (62 mi; 54 nmi) from the destination, after the first officer mistook the city lights of Isparta for the runway of Antalya Airport, despite warnings from the controller at Antalya.
Most passengers were heading to Antalya for vacation and were not Turkish. The bodies of 18 Italian victims were buried at a cemetery near Isparta instead of being sent to Italy. A member of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey also died in the crash.
Aircraft and crew
The aircraft involved in the accident was a Boeing 727-2F2[a] registered as TC-JBH with serial number 20982/1087. The aircraft made its first flight on 11 November 1974. The plane was delivered to the airline on 1 December. TC-JBH was named Antalya, the destination of the flight.
The captain was Celâl Topçuoğlu and the first officer was Sacit Soğangöz. Also on board were flight engineer Ahmet Bursalı and technician Muhittin Güçlü. The four cabin crew members were Feyzan Güngör, Neriman Düzelli, Kâmuran Küçükkoşum and Canan Dinç. Three Turkish Airlines employees, scheduled to fly a McDonnell Douglas DC-9 from Antalya to Istanbul the next morning, were also deadheading on the flight.
The plane arrived at Istanbul Atatürk Airport (IST/LTBA) from Italy at 21:30 local time with 68 passengers. 78 more passengers boarded at Istanbul and the plane took off at 22:45 with a delay of 35 minutes.
At 23:11, the pilots reported that they could see the lights of the city, while the plane was around 100 kilometres (62 mi) north of it. 30 minutes after takeoff, they announced they were approaching Antalya Airport and would descend from 4,400 metres (14,400 ft) to 4,000 metres (13,000 ft). When the pilots confirmed they had the runway in sight, the controller at Antalya notified them that he couldn't see them. First Officer Soğangöz responded: "Should I believe you, or my eyes?" Captain Topçuoğlu, who was in the passenger cabin, returned to the cockpit after realizing that something was wrong at an altitude of 150 metres (490 ft) and gave full throttle when he saw the hill ahead.
Eyewitnesses reported that the plane flew very close to the city and that they could "almost see the passengers". The aircraft passed the Sidre Tepe Hill near Isparta, after which it started to climb. At 23:20, a loud explosion was heard from Karatepe, the hill after Sidre Tepe. The aircraft crashed its right wing in a hill, following which it bounced off to the other side of the valley and disintegrated. The wreckage was at an approximate altitude of 1,130 metres (3,710 ft). At the time of the accident, a horror film was being aired on television, causing some locals to leave their homes after the explosion.
Wreckage and recovery
| Airliner Crashes in Turkey Short of its Destination |
The scene of the accident two days after the crash
The impact shattered the aircraft wreckage over an area of 2 kilometres (1.2 mi). After hearing the explosion, nearby residents climbed to the top of the hill for two hours. Military personnel were dispatched to the area and were already on the scene. They found pieces of the aircraft on fire and extinguished them by throwing sand atop. One of the wings was found on top of the hill, while the engines were located at the bottom. A generator was used to light up the site at night. To prevent the looting of items, officials closed the area to civilians, despite which thousands of people went up the hill and were able to see the wreckage and bodies after midnight. The first flight recorder was found the day after the accident. The flight data recorder was found on 22 September. In 2009, some remains of the plane were still found at the crash site.
A total of 155 people, 144 passengers and 11 Turkish Airlines employees, were killed in the accident. 125 of those passengers were of non-Turkish descent, largely being Italian tourists. Among the victims was Kemal Ziya Öztürk, an independent member of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey from the Aydın district and the father of aviator Murat Öztürk. The crash also claimed the life of the former Italian soldier and recipient of the Gold Medal of Military Valour, Enrico Martini. İlhan Cavcav was on board the aircraft on the first leg and was also due to continue with the flight to Antalya but changed his mind and flew to Ankara instead.
According to eyewitnesses, the bodies of victims were badly burned, making identification impossible. While most bodies of Italian victims were sent to Italy, 18 of the Italian passengers were buried at a local cemetery. As of August 2023[update], the crash is the deadliest aviation accident to occur in Turkey.
The day following the crash, a lightning strike was eliminated as a cause for the accident, based on the weather reports. Investigators accessed the cockpit voice recorder on 22 September, the transcript of which was kept secret. The experts inspecting the recordings later announced that the pilots were trying to fly visually, instead of instrumental flight, which was required at night, and that they mistook the dark area ahead of them—the Western Taurus Mountains—for the Mediterranean Sea and the city lights of Isparta for those of Antalya. It was also revealed that the distance measuring equipment of Antalya Airport broke three days before the crash.
- Gero 2000, p. 138.
- "Turkish Airlines Flight 452". Aviation Safety Network. Archived from the original on 24 July 2018. Retrieved 13 September 2022.
- Air Pictorial 1975, p. 78.
- Gök 2018, p. 125.
- "Antalya Uçağı Düştü: 155 Ölü" [Antalya Plane Crashed: 155 Dead]. Cumhuriyet (in Turkish). 20 September 1976. p. 1.
- "Crash of a Boeing 727-2F2 Near Isparta: 154 Killed". Bureau of Aircraft Accidents Archives. Archived from the original on 18 October 2021. Retrieved 13 September 2022.
- "THY Uçağının Kalıntıları Hala Orada" [The Remains of the THY Plane Are Still There]. AirportHaber (in Turkish). 28 August 2009. Archived from the original on 23 February 2017. Retrieved 13 September 2022.
- Gök 2018, p. 124.
- Gero 2000, p. 139.
- "Uçak Kazasının Nedeni Saptanamadı" [The Cause of the Plane Crash Could Not Be Determined]. Cumhuriyet (in Turkish). 21 September 1976. p. 1.
- "Antalya Uçağının Ses Bandı Dinlendi, Uçuş kaydını İçeren İkinci Kara Kutu da Bulundu" [The Audio Tape of the Antalya Plane Was Listened, The Second Black Box Containing the Flight Record Was Also Found]. Cumhuriyet (in Turkish). 23 September 1976. p. 1.
- Gök 2018, p. 126.
- Kunar, Selma; Kaya, Ferhat (7 September 2011). "Ölen İtalyan yolcular unutulmuyor" [Italian passengers who died are not forgotten]. İhlas News Agency (in Turkish). Archived from the original on 23 June 2016. Retrieved 13 September 2022.
- "Bazı Uzmanlar Antalya Uçağı Kazasında Pilotaj Hatasının Etken Olduğunu Öne Sürdüler" [Some Experts Suggested That Piloting Error Was a Factor in Antalya Plane Crash]. Cumhuriyet (in Turkish). 25 September 1976. p. 1.
- "Antalya Havaalanının Uzaklık Bildiren Aygıtın Uçak Kazasından 3 Gün Önce Bozulduğu Açıklandı" [Announced that Antalya Airport Distance Reporting Device Broke 3 Days Before Plane Crash]. Cumhuriyet (in Turkish). 24 September 1976. p. 1.
- Air Pictorial (1975). "London/Heathrow". Air Pictorial. Vol. 37. Air League of the British Empire.
- Gero, David (2000). Aviation Disasters: The World's Major Civil Airliner Crashes Since 1950 (Third ed.). P. Stephens. ISBN 9781852606022.
- Gök, Kerem (2018). Uçak Kazaları: Türk Sivil Havacılık Tarihine Damgasını Vuran Kazalar [Aircraft Accidents: Accidents That Marked the History of Turkish Civil Aviation] (in Turkish) (First ed.). Ankara: Kanon Kitap. ISBN 9786056864414.