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Home > Air Crash > Could the wasp have contributed to the Birgen Air Boeing 757 crash?
Could the wasp have contributed to the Birgen Air Boeing 757 crash?
Aviation - Air Crash
Sunday, 27 January 2013 07:41

Air Crash Investigations - Mixed Signals
 
Dear Capt Lim,

I'm an instrument-rated pilot based in Tehran. I would like to highlight something in order to improve Aviation Safety.

I`ve watched the Air Crash Investigations videos hundreds of times.

I have a question on the safety of the Boeing 757.

I believe you know the reasons and the circumstances that led to Birgen Air 301 crash. Anyway, just by pushing the control column forward, that crash could have been averted.

Mohammad

Hi Mohammad,

As we all know Flight 301 was a Boeing 757 chartered flight from the Dominican Republic to Frankfurt and managed by a Turkish airline Birgenair. It crashed shortly after take-off on 6 February 1996.

“Investigators believe that the most likely culprit was the black and yellow mud dauber, a type of solitary sphecid wasp well-known to Dominican pilots, which tends to establish its nest in artificial, cylindrical structures, or make its own cylindrical nest out of mud. The aircraft had not flown in 25 days, during which time the pitot tubes were not covered, giving the wasps an opportunity to build nests in the tubes.”(see here)

It is interesting to note that there are some similarities with 2 other crashes.

The first one was Aeroperú Flight 603, involving a Boeing 757 also in 1996 - suffered from a similar but far more difficult situation (static ports blocked by tape, rendering all airspeed indicators and pressure altimeters unusable) and crashed in the ocean off Peru.

The other one was the Air France 447 Airbus A330 that had its pitot tube blocked by ice in flight. The end result of blocked tubes is an unreliable airspeed scenario. If pilots are not well trained in the recovery from an unreliable airspeed situation, it would be disastrous as seen in these 3 situations.

The cardinal rule is to abort the take-off if the flying pilot sees his speed not increasing when the other non-flying pilot (usually the co-pilot) calls “100 knots”. This, according to the investigators, the captain of Flight 301 failed to do and it gradually led to more problems later on.

Yes, it led to unreliable airspeed whereby an improperly trained pilot would be confused - thinking the plane was flying with a correct speed when in fact it is about to stall or crash. In such a situation, the stall warning is to be respected regardless of the speed ‘correct’ indication!

As you have said, the pilot should have pushed the control column forward to avert the crash when he heard the stall warning. If you have read the investigation report, the captain mishandled the recovery and that led to the disaster.

PS. To check for any latest updates or postings, you can follow my new Twitter at @CaptKHLim


Air Crash Investigations – The crash of Aeroperu 603

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procedures
This was another example of not following procedures? That is...pitot tubes should be checked and tested........aand the pilot failed to abort takeoff due to speed inconsistency.
Kenny , 22 Apr, 2014

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