51 Years ago today: On 14 March 1972 a Sterling Airways Caravelle crashed into mountains near Dubai, killing all 112 occupants.
|Date:||Tuesday 14 March 1972|
Sud Aviation SE-210 Caravelle 10B3
|Total airframe hrs:||6674|
|Engines:||2 Pratt & Whitney JT8D-9|
|Crew:||Fatalities: 6 / Occupants: 6|
|Passengers:||Fatalities: 106 / Occupants: 106|
|Total:||Fatalities: 112 / Occupants: 112|
|Aircraft fate:||Written off (damaged beyond repair)|
|Location:||ca 20 km W of Kalba ( United Arab Emirates)|
|Crash site elevation:||488 m (1601 feet) amsl|
|Phase:||En route (ENR)|
|Nature:||Int’l Non Scheduled Passenger|
|Departure airport:||Bombay-Santacruz Airport (BOM/VABB), India|
|Destination airport:||Dubai Airport (DXB/OMDB), United Arab Emirates|
Sterling Flight 296 was a charter service from Colombo (CMB), Sri Lanka to Copenhagen (CPH), Denmark. Refueling stops were planned at Bombay, Dubai, and Ankara.
After a one-hour stopover at Bombay, the flight took off for Dubai at 15:20 hours UTC. An IFR flight plan was submitted for airway R19, containing five reporting points. The en route altitude was FL310 and all reporting points were passed ahead of schedule.
At 17:25 the crew received the current Dubai weather information which showed a wind from 040 degrees at 8 knots; 10 km visibility; and 5/8 clouds at 2000 feet.
At 17:42 the flight contacted Dubai Approach and reported on the 084 radial of the Dubai (DO) VOR. The approach controller told the crew to expect descent clearance at 17:55. However, at 17:49, the crew radioed approach control, requesting an immediate descent as they were 95 NM out. Unknown to the crew, their actual position was 162 NM from Dubai.
The controller cleared the flight down to 4000 feet and reported that runway 30 and 12 were both available. The flight replied: “We will see if we can make this a straight in on 30”.
At 17:56 hours the flight reported descending through FL135. The controller replied: “Recleared ‘DO’ 2000 feet on Dubai 1016 mb report 2000 feet or field in sight”. In conditions of darkness the flight crew likely spotted the city lights of Fujayrah, Ghurayfah and Kalba during the descent, assuming these were the lights of Dubai.
Radio contact between the flight and Dubai Approach became more difficult during the descent over mountainous terrain. As a result of flying over mountainous terrain, about 80 km to the east of Dubai, flight 296 also had difficulty in tuning into the NDB and VOR frequencies.
Descent was continued until the plane struck a mountain ridge at 1600 feet.
The reason for the accident was that the aircraft was flown below the prescribed minimum altitude, probably because:
1. The pilots thought that they were closer to their destination than they actually were, supposedly due to the incorrect information on the outdated flight plan in use or due to a misreading of the weather radar, or a combination of both.
2. The pilots thought they had their position confirmed when they got visual contact with the towns of Fujayrah, Ghurayfah and Kalba, mistaking these for Dubai.