Avianaca Flight 52

Featured Image: Wikimedia Commons

Avianca Flight 52 was a scheduled international commercial passenger flight from Bogota, Columbia, to New York, USA. The flight included a stop-over at Medellin in Columbia. The aircraft flying the route was a Boeing 707. On the 25th of January, 1990, the Boeing 707 was carrying 149 passengers and 9 crew. Avianca Flight 52 ran out of fuel after attempting to land at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport. It crashed into a hillside in a village outside New York City. 65 passengers and 8 crew died in the crash. The rest of them survived with critical injuries, some taking months to recover.

The subsequent investigations carried out the US’ National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) revealed a grim reality. Many factors built up to lead to this air disaster. When the aircraft took off from Medellin for its leg to New York, it had more than enough fuel to reach the destination. In route, the flight was put into three holding patterns due to traffic congestion and bad weather at JFK New York.

The pilots did not manage the fuel correctly. Adding to this, they could not effectively communicate this emergency to the air traffic controllers who further kept delaying them. The Boeing 707 was critically low on fuel but none of the pilots used the word “emergency” in their communications to the air traffic controllers which is why they were not given landing priority or emergency treatment.

After missing an approach to JFK, the 707’s engines suffered from a flameout and lost power. The aircraft crashed as a result. Lives were lost because of a simple communication gap.

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