UTA Flight 141

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UTA Flight 141
Катастрофа Boeing 727 в Котону.jpg
The destroyed cockpit section of the aircraft
Date25 December 2003
SummaryFailure to take off due to aircraft overload as a result of poor management
SiteCotonou Airport, Cotonou, Benin
6°20′48.9″N 2°22′16.9″E / 6.346917°N 2.371361°E / 6.346917; 2.371361Coordinates: 6°20′48.9″N 2°22′16.9″E / 6.346917°N 2.371361°E / 6.346917; 2.371361
Total fatalities141
Total injuries24
Aircraft typeBoeing 727-223
OperatorUnion des Transports Africains de Guinée (UTA)
Flight originConakry International Airport, Conakry, Guinea
1st stopoverCotonou Airport, Cotonou, Benin
2nd stopoverKufra Airport, Kufra, Libya
Last stopoverRafic Hariri Int'l Airport, Beirut, Lebanon
DestinationDubai International Airport, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Survivors22 (initially 35)
Ground casualties
Ground injuries2

UTA Flight 141 was a chartered international passenger flight operated by Guinean regional airline Union des Transports Africains de Guinée, flying from Cotonou Airport in Cotonou, Benin, to Kufra Airport in Kufra, Libya. On 25 December 2003, the aircraft crashed into the Bight of Benin, killing 141 people, most of whom were Lebanese. Shortly after the crash, 35 survivors were found by a search-and-rescue team. Some of them were pronounced dead upon reaching the hospital.

The final accident report, which was published by France's Bureau d'Enquêtes et d'Analyses pour la Sécurité de l'Aviation Civile (BEA), concluded that the crash occurred due to the airplane being overloaded, as the plane's actual weight exceeded its maximum weight capacity, thus decreasing its performance, especially when taking off. Flight 141 did take off, but could not gain altitude, hit a localizer building, and plunged into the ocean. The report also blamed the airport's lack of facilities.[1]

The crash was the 102nd aviation accident involving the Boeing 727.[2] It is the deadliest plane crash in Benin's aviation history, and the 11th deadliest accident involving the Boeing 727.[3][4]

Aircraft and crew[edit]

The aircraft involved in the crash while still operating as American Airlines at Miami International Airport with Registration N865AA

The aircraft, a Boeing 727-223 formerly owned by American Airlines and registered as N865AA, had gone through several operators before being acquired by UTA.[1]: 14–16 

All three flight crew members had previously flown for Libyan Arab Airlines, and had their first flight with the airline on 8 December 2003. The captain was 49-year-old Najib Al-Barouni[5] with 11,000 flight hours, including 8,000 hours on the Boeing 727. The first officer was an unnamed 49-year-old male whose flight information was not stated in the accident report. The flight engineer was an unnamed 45-year-old male who had 14,000 flight hours, all on the Boeing 727.[1]: 10–12 


Flight 141's route was Conakry International AirportCotonou Cadjehoun AirportKufra AirportBeirut International AirportDubai International Airport.[1] As passengers were boarding, the situation became chaotic. Many boarded at the last minute and had not sat down. Eventually, order was restored in the cabin and the flight was cleared for takeoff.

The aircraft started its takeoff roll with the first officer as the pilot flying and the captain as the pilot monitoring. After reaching V1 speed, the first officer attempted to rotate the plane, pulling back on the control column, but the aircraft did not respond. After the first officer applied more force to the yoke, the plane finally lifted off, but then hit a localizer building at the end of the runway and lost altitude before hitting a beach and breaking up.

Emergency crews responded quickly, but were hampered by poor coordination and a large crowd of onlookers surrounding the accident site.


As the accident happened on Christmas Day, many of the passengers were workers who were flying home to Lebanon to enjoy the holidays with their families. Over a hundred of the passengers were Lebanese, while the rest were from Togo, Guinea, Libya, Sierra Leone, Palestine, Syria, Nigeria, and Iran.[6] Among the passengers were 15 Bangladeshi UN peacekeepers returning from their duties in Sierra Leone and Liberia.[7] Exact passenger numbers are impossible to determine, as more passengers were thought to be aboard than were listed on the manifest.[1]: 7 


The accident was investigated by the Republic of Benin, with the French BEA providing support. Examination of the wreckage revealed no evidence of mechanical failure of the plane's flight controls or engines. Investigators discovered that the pilots were provided with incorrect information on the plane's weight and center of gravity; the plane was also found to be greatly overweight, with its center of gravity dangerously far forward. This likely affected the plane's ability to get airborne. High runway air temperatures also affected the aircraft's performance.

Investigators tried to determine why the pilots would have attempted to take off in such circumstances. The airline provided very limited support to the crew, and many available company manuals and documents were either inaccurate or poorly designed. Investigators also found that many company management personnel lacked adequate knowledge, organization, and competence to operate charter flights. Further, more air routes were needed throughout the region. Investigators concluded that the lack of a culture of safety within the company, coupled with pressure to get flights to their destinations on time, put the flight crew in a stressful situation without the resources to make the correct decision.

The investigation further concluded that safety oversight by aviation authorities in Africa was inadequate and failed to properly correct safety deficiencies. It also found that the impact with the localizer building contributed to the accident's severity, and noted flaws with the emergency response. As a result of the accident, investigators recommended better safety oversight of airlines by African aviation authorities. It also recommended improvements regarding compliance with weight and balance procedures for loading aircraft.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e "Final report Accident on 25 December 2003 at Cotonou Cadjèhoun aerodrome (Benin) to the Boeing 727-223 registered 3X-GDO operated by UTA (Union des Transports Africains)" (PDF). www.bea.aero. Bureau d'Enquêtes et d'Analyses pour la Sécurité de l'Aviation Civile. Archived (PDF) from the original on 25 June 2011. Retrieved 9 June 2009.
  2. ^ Ranter, Harro. "ASN Aircraft accident Boeing 727-223 3X-GDO Cotonou Airport (COO)". aviation-safety.net. Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved 17 October 2019.
  3. ^ Ranter, Harro. "Benin air safety profile". aviation-safety.net. Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved 17 October 2019.
  4. ^ Ranter, Harro. "Boeing 727". aviation-safety.net. Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved 17 October 2019.
  5. ^ Nasser, Cilina (9 January 2004). "Crashes raise doubts about airline safety". The Daily Star. Retrieved 10 January 2021.
  6. ^ "Survivors of Benin crash arrive home". ABC.
  7. ^ "Benin air crash dead flown home". BBC News.

External links[edit]