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1st of January 1953

For the crew and passengers of PH-TDL a KLM Douglas C-54B-1-DC the year 1953 started with an emergency landing.

PH-TDL after the emergency landing (from the collection of H. Dekker)

The aircraft was on a charter flight from London to Karachi. After a (fuel), the aircraft had taken off at 09.05 UTC from Rome on the next leg of the charter. Its destination Basra, Iraq. The weather at Basra had been hood the whole day but the weather began to deteriorate. As the weather continued to deteriorate it fell below the minima KLM had laid down for company aircraft landing at Basra Airport. The crew checked the weather for their alternate, Bagdad. The weather there had closed in as well, and visibility had dropped below the required minima for the KLM C-54 to land at Bagdad. The Captain of the flight decided to divert to Dharan. This airport however was further than the fuel supply onboard the aircraft. With the engines running on fumes the crew decided to perform a forced landing in the desert. They decided to perform a wheels-up landing in the desert. As luck had it there was a full moon and clear skies around Dharan and the moonlight provided good lighting and the belly landing was completed successfully.

PH-TDL after the emergency landing (from the collection of H. Dekker)

All passengers and crew evacuated the aircraft without any injuries reported. As the crew had informed ATC about their predicament rescue teams were sent out to search for the C-54. A Gromman Albatross found the aircraft 17 miles from Dharan Airport and directed rescuers in cars to the landing site. Two helicopters with medical teams and supplies were dispatched, but were not required as the crew and passengers were unhurt,

PH-TDL being recovered (from the collection of H. Dekker)

A Board of Inquiry was held into the incident, they came to the following conclusions;

1) Crew training was insufficient in recognising and handling possible instrument misreading or errors

2) More reliable fuel gauges should be developed

3) Contributing to the cause was the overestimation of fuel availability and inaccurate judgement on the fuel consumption and fuel status of the aircraft.

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