top of page

17th of July 1980

A BAe Vickers Viscount 708 was scheduled to operate a non-scheduled passenger flight from Santander Airport (Spain) to Exeter Airport (United Kingdom) with four crew and 62 passengers on board.

The aircraft in its final position (Source © unknown) After arrival at Santander, the remaining fuel was noted in the aircraft technical log as 3178 litres (~700 Gallon). 5902 litres of fuel were required for the return flight, resulting in a requested uplift of 2720 litres, which is 454 litres short of full tanks. More than enough for the planned flight. The aircraft was refuelled, using one hose, one wing at a time. Once finished the gauge on the fuel truck showed that 2720 litres of fuel had been delivered. The co-pilot checked the figures and signed the fuel delivery slip. The fuel quantity in the wings was not checked using the dripsticks in the wings (A dripstick is a thin hollow tube installed vertically in the bottoms of fuel tanks of many large aircraft, used to check fuel levels. To read a dripstick, it is withdrawn from the lower surface of the wing. When the top of the dripstick is withdrawn below the level of the fuel, fuel enters it and drips through a hole in the cap. Graduations on it indicate the level of fuel in the tank)

The aircraft in its final position (Source © unknown)

The planned flight time was just over two hours with expected fuel consumption of 3375 litres.

During the flight, regular fuel checks were made, and the used fuel indication matched the expected fuel burn. However, the fuel quantity indications caused some concern for the crew. At times the left-wing indication varied from empty to full while the right-wing indication showed only 500 litres and was reducing steadily. The fuel situation was reviewed by the crew, and although they felt uneasy about the fuel status they concluded that they must have sufficient fuel based on the refuelling figures from Santander, A fuel stop was considered but deemed not necessary. As the flight progressed the weather for Exeter was obtained and the aircraft was vectored for a landing at runway 26. The aircraft was configured for landing and at 2000 feet QFE, just below the clouds and

8 miles from the runway, fuel low-pressure lights came on and one after another all four engines lost power. A mayday call was made to ATC). The Pilot In Command, being familiar with the area, turned the aircraft to the left, and with the flaps set at 20º (landing gear retracted), the aircraft descended towards a field. The rear of the fuselage struck the ground first and almost simultaneously the port wing struck a tree causing a noticeable yaw to the left as the nose pitched down. Without hitting any further obstruction the aircraft came to rest after 307 metres on a heading of 074 degrees (magnetic). The aircraft was evacuated, and none of the occupants was injured in the accident. There was no post-accident fire, subsequent checks of the aircraft fuel tanks revealed they were empty.

The aircraft in its final position (Source © unknown)

The accident was investigated by the Air Accident Investigation Branch (AAIB) and they found that the accident was by the aircraft running out of fuel due to the crew's erroneous belief that there was on board sufficient fuel to complete the flight. The aircraft's unreliable fuel gauges, the company pilots' method of establishing the total fuel quantity and lack of precise company instructions regarding the use of dripsticks were major contributory factors. Meter indications on the refuelling vehicle at Santander, which cannot have reflected the quantity of fuel delivered, are also considered to have been a probable contributory factor. The AAIB report is available by clicking here.

66 views1 comment

1 Comment

Taking for granted that the bowser and cockpit gauges were accurate and not dipping the tanks to confirm is difficult to understand. What really frightened me, though, was that my new bosses had forced me to accept, against my better judgement, the chartering from Alidair the previous day of their Viscount to cover an avoidable fleet shortfall, covering the Air UK schedule from Aberdeen (EGPD / ABZ) to Bergen (ENBR / BGO) via Stavanger (ENZV / SVG) and return.

Early-ish in the morning which followed the Ottery St. Mary accident, I had the unsurprising but still unpleasant experience of hearing and seeing the grim-faced members of the CAA's 'Rummage Squad' march past the Air UK Operations office at ABZ and…

Post: Blog2_Post
bottom of page