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25th of May 2008

A Boeing 747-209F Was scheduled to operate a cargo flight from Brussel-Zaventem Airport (Belgium) to Bahrain International Airport (Bahrain), onboard a crew of four, a passenger and 75.172 kilograms (165.688 pounds) of freight.

The nose section of the aircraft (Source: public domain © Robert Stroobants)

The crew met the inbound crew and exchanged information on the status of the aircraft, which was good there were no issues reported. A pre-flight inspection was performed by the captain and two minor issues were raised with the maintenance staff, a tire issue and an avionics door latch not stowed.

A standard briefing was carried out covering all aspects of the upcoming take-off. Including procedures for an engine failure prior to V1 and also after V1 should a situation occur that would prohibit the aircraft from flight. Using the On-board Performance System (OPS) the necessary take-off parameters were calculated, using weather and weight & balance data. The following data was used;

  • Take-off weight: 692.8230 lb (314.259 kilograms)

  • Take-off runway: runway 20 (total length 2987 meters)

  • Take-off runway condition; Wet

  • Meteo from ATIS 'Sierra'; - Wind 210º/6 knots - QNH 1012

  • Flaps setting; 10 degrees

  • Derated take off

The aircraft in its final position (Source; public domain © Wim Bladt)

Based on this data the OPS provided the crew with the following take-off parameters;

  • V1 (take-off decision speed): 138 knots

  • Vr (rotate speed): 157 knots

  • Stop margin: 273 meters / 897 feet (the distance required to stop the aircraft when aborting take-off at V1)

  • EPR; 1.447 (Engine Pressure Ratio, a measure of engine thrust)

  • Wind 6 knots headwind / 1 knot crosswind component

After the engines were started the aircraft taxied to runway 20 and at 11.29 local time ATC gave the take-off clearance. The captain pushed the throttles forward and checked if they were stable, after which the flight engineer set the engine power for take-off with an EPR of 1.447 as calculated. As the aircraft accelerated the required call-outs were made. A few seconds after reaching V1, and thus after the "V1" call-out, the #3 engine (Righthand inboard) ingested a bird resulting in an engine stall 5 seconds after V1. A loud bang was heard and vibrations were felt in the cockpit. The captain had the feeling the aircraft was no longer accelerating and 2 seconds after hearing the engine stall, the thrust levers were retarded to idle and the wheel brakes were applied, thrust reversers were not deployed. The first officer called the tower, informing them they were going to overrun the runway.

In order to avoid the approach lights at the end of the runway, the captain steered the aircraft a few degrees right, leaving the runway at a speed of ~72 knots.

The aircraft dropped down an embankment of 4 meters (~13 feet) and broke into three pieces. Just before dropping down a railway embankment, the aircraft came to a stop. After the necessary emergency checklist was completed the crew and passenger evacuated the aircraft through the right-hand service door (R1) as the normal entry door was blocked by structural damage. (photo evidence suggests that they used the right-hand upper deck emergency exit as the evacuation slide appears to have been deployed).

The aircraft in its final position (Source; public domain © unknown)

The Belgium Air Accident Investigation Unit (AAIU) was informed about the accident and immediately launched an investigation. On the 10th of July 2009 they issued their final investigation report on the accident, the report is available by clicking here. They concluded their report by stating the following cause;

"The accident was caused by the decision to Reject the Take-Off 12 knots after passing V1 speed.

The following factors contributed to the accident;

  • Engine Nr 3 experienced a bird strike, causing it to stall.

  • The aircraft line up at the B1 intersection although the take-off parameters were computed with the full length of the runway.

  • The situational awareness of the crew,

  • Less than maximum use of deceleration devices.

  • Although the RESA (Runway End Safety Area) conforms to the minimum ICAO requirement, it does not conform to the ICAO recommendation for length

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