43 Years ago today: On 15 November 1978 a Loftleidir Douglas DC-8 crashed on final approach to Colombo, killing 183 out of 262 occupants.
|Date:||Wednesday 15 November 1978|
McDonnell Douglas DC-8-63CF
|On behalf of:||Garuda Indonesia Airways|
|Engines:||4 Pratt & Whitney JT3D-|
|Crew:||Fatalities: 8 / Occupants: 13|
|Passengers:||Fatalities: 175 / Occupants: 249|
|Total:||Fatalities: 183 / Occupants: 262|
|Aircraft fate:||Written off (damaged beyond repair)|
|Location:||2,1 km (1.3 mls) NE of Colombo-Bandaranaike International Airport (CMB) ( Sri Lanka)|
|Nature:||Int’l Non Scheduled Passenger|
|Departure airport:||Jeddah International Airport (JED/OEJD), Saudi Arabia|
|Destination airport:||Colombo-Katunayake International Airport (CMB/VCBI), Sri Lanka|
Loftleidir flight 001, a DC-8-63CF, took-off from Jeddah Airport in Saudi Arabia, at approximately 12.58 UTC to proceed to Surabaya, Indonesia, with a programmed technical stop at Colombo-Katunayake International Airport in Sri Lanka, for fuel and crew change. The aircraft had been chartered by Garuda Indonesian Airways to carry Indonesian “Haj” pilgrims from Indonesia to Mecca and return.
The flight contacted Ratmalana Area Control at 22:53 local time and was informed that the runway in use at Colombo-Katunayake was runway 04. The aircraft requested runway 22 and accordingly was cleared for a radar vectored ILS approach to runway 22. Area Control who was in contact with the aircraft initially descended the aircraft from FL330 to FL220 approximately 90 miles out of Colombo Airport. The aircraft was handed over to Radar Control at 23:06. The flight was cleared to descend to 2000 feet and to carry out an ILS approach to runway 22. The Radar Controller also requested the aircraft to report when it was established on the localizer. Though the request was acknowledged, no confirmation was received. The Radar Controller continued to give advisory information on the aircraft’s distance and height, the last advisory call being at 23:27:26:” Lima Lima 001, slightly to the left of centre line, very slightly to the left of centre line, two miles from touch-down, height 650 feet, cleared to land-off this approach.”
This transmission was acknowledged by the aircraft at 23:27:37. Shortly thereafter, the Approach Controller sighted the aircraft very low on the approach and called out twice “Lima, Lima 001, you are undershooting”. However, this transmission was not received by the aircraft as the Approach Controller spoke on the approach frequency 119.7 MHz whereas the aircraft was still tuned to the Radar Controller on 119.1 MHz. The Approach Controller observed the aircraft disappearing from sight followed by what appeared to be a ball of fire around the area where it passed out of sight. The aircraft had crashed into a rubber and coconut plantation at a point about 2 kilometers from the threshold of runway 22 and 103 feet to the right of the extended centre line of the runway. The aircraft was destroyed by impact and fire.
PROBABLE CAUSE: “The flight crew’s failure to conform with the laid down approach procedures. They failed to check and utilise all instruments available for altitude and descent rate awareness. The co-pilot failed to provide the captain with the required altitude and sink rate call outs at various levels. The sink rate was very excessive during most of the descent.
The captain failed to initiate a missed approach procedure at the appropriate height when the runway was not visible. When he commenced the overshoot, the aircraft had already descended too low.”
The Icelandic Directorate of Civil Aviation, however blamed the accident on inadequate maintenance of ILS facilities, which caused a downward bending of the glideslope into the ground. Erroneous information supplied by the radar controller and the lack of an operational approach lighting system at Bandaranaike were contributing factors.