NTSB Press Release

National Transportation Safety Board
Office of Public Affairs


VENEZUELA RELEASES FACTUAL INFORMATION ON AUGUST MD-82 CRASH INVESTIGATION

November 22, 2005

On August 16, 2005, West Caribbean Airways flight 708, an MD-82 (registration HK-4374X), crashed near Machiques, Venezuela while on a charter flight from Panama to Martinique. All 160 persons aboard the flight died in the crash.

The following information has been released by the Comite de Investigacion de Accidentes Aereos (CIAA) of Venezuela. All States assisting the investigation -- France, Colombia and the United States -- agree with the factual findings. The NTSB is distributing this information at the request of the Venezuelan Investigator-in-Charge.

Wreckage

Movement of the wreckage has been delayed due to very heavy rains in the area where the airplane crashed. However, it should be moved to a secure area in Maracaibo in the next few days. Once the wreckage has been moved, additional inspections will be completed. Initial examinations on site revealed:

--Ground scars indicate that the airplane impacted in a nose up and slight right roll attitude.
--Wreckage was distributed over a triangle shaped area that was approximately 205 meters long and 110 meters at its widest point.
--Both engines exhibited indications of high-speed compressor rotation at the time of ground impact.
--The engine inlets, empennage and wing leading edges showed no sign of pre-impact damage.
--The horizontal stabilizer was found at about the full airplane nose up position (about 12 units nose up).

Flight Recorders

The cockpit voice recorder (CVR) and flight data recorder (FDR) were downloaded at the Bureau d'Enquetes et d'Analyses pour la Securite de l'Aviation Civil (BEA) laboratory near Paris, France, during the week of September 5, 2005.

Both the FDR and CVR casings were severely damaged due to impact forces. Both recorders operated until impact.

Flight Data Recorder

The FDR protected module was in good condition and the magnetic tape was extracted in good condition. The investigation has gained good information from the recorder. However, several parameters were not recorded as designed, including left engine pressure ratio (EPR), pitch attitude, roll attitude, magnetic heading, and column position.

The following events are recorded on the FDR:

--The accident flight lasted about one hour from takeoff to the end of the recording.
--The flight reached its initial cruise altitude of flight level (FL) 310 at about 6:25 UTC (universal coordinated time).
--At about 6:41 UTC, about 20 minutes before the end of the recording, the airplane began a normal climb to FL330. It leveled off at about 6:43 and accelerated to Mach 0.76. The right engine EPR was consistent with normal climb and cruise values.
--About 90 seconds after reaching Mach 0.76 (6:49 UTC), the airspeed began to steadily decrease. The horizontal stabilizer moved from about 2 units nose up to about 4 units nose up during this deceleration.
--About 3 minutes and 30 seconds (6:57 UTC) from the end of recording, the Mach number reached about 0.60. The autopilot was then disengaged and the airplane started to descend from FL330.
--As the airplane descended past about FL315, the airspeed continued to decrease and the right engine EPR decreased to about flight idle.
--The airplane descent rate increased after passing through FL310.
--The airspeed reached a minimum of about 150 indicated air speed (IAS) knots at about FL250.
--Right engine EPR stayed at approximately flight idle through the descent and even increased several times, including shortly before the end of the recording.
--Once the airplane started to descend, the horizontal stabilizer moved in increments to about 12 units nose up (which is about full nose up trim) while descending through FL200.

Cockpit Voice Recorder

The CVR protected module was partly opened due to impact forces. Overall, the magnetic tape was in good condition, but the tape was partially cut due to impact forces. The overall quality of the recoding is poor, with many areas of static and loud background noises. However, valuable data was obtained.

Almost all crew discussions to communicate with each other and with air traffic control (ATC), in Colombia and Venezuela, were in Spanish.

The CVR recorded the last 32 minutes of the accident flight.

The following events are recorded on the CVR:

--At about 06:53 UTC, approximately 8 minutes before the end of recording (while the airplane is level at FL330) the flight crew discusses weather concerns that included possible icing conditions. The flight crew also discusses turning on engine and airfoil anti-ice.
--About 3 minutes and 30 seconds (6:57 UTC) before the end of the recording, the crew requests and is cleared to descend to FL310.
--About 3 minutes before the end of the recording, an audio warning similar to altitude alert is heard, followed 22 seconds later by a sound similar to stick shaker (6:58 UTC) and then an aural stall warning alert. These warnings sound continuously until the end of the recording.
--The flight crew requests subsequently lower altitudes of FL290, FL240, and finally 14,000 feet.
--The flight crew does not declare an emergency, and they do not refer to any checklist during the descent.
--About 1 minute after the start of the sound similar to the stick shaker, the flight crew states that they had a dual engine flameout when asked by ATC if they had a problem.
--Last radio transmission from the flight crew to ATC was at about 07:00:11 UTC.
--About 8 seconds before the end of recording, a ground proximity warning system (GPWS) warning starts to be heard and continues to the end of recording.
--The time from first sound similar to stick shaker, to the end of the recording is about 2 minutes and 46 seconds.
--The end of the tape occurs at about 7:00:31 UTC.

For further information on the investigation and the contents of this release, please contact Tcnel. Lorllys Ramos Acevedo, Directora, CIAA, Venezuela, +58 (212) 201- 5491.

The information in this advisory has been translated into French by the BEA and can be accessed at the following URL : http://www.bea.aero/francais/actualite/actu.htm External link disclaimer. (see right-hand side of page under "Accident survenu au Venezuela...", and select "Communiqué du 22/11/2005"). The information also will be available in Spanish (from the CIAA) on the Safety Board's website Spanish-language page: http://www.ntsb.gov/es/pressrel/2005/051122es.htm.

NTSB Office of Public Affairs: (202) 314-6100

 

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of transportation accidents, promoting transportation safety, and assisting victims of transportation accidents and their families.