Every newly built aircraft will get into crisis at least one time during its journey. It is unusual for an aircraft to start its career and retire from its journey without any crisis or scandal. Some airlines face this crisis may be in the middle of the career or end of their career. However, sometimes the crisis ends by ending the career of the aircraft. As in the case of Boeing 727, Boeing already took a risky start. The aircraft faced a lot of crises immediately after the launch of the trijet airliner. Since the first flight of B727 in 1963, a total of 199 out of 1,832 Boeing 727s built lost due to crashes, terrorist acts, and other causes.

Boeing 727’s journey to the end

Boeing launched the 727 in 1960 and the aircraft entered the service in 1964. However, immediately after the launch of the B727, it faced disastrous crashes in less than three months. Due to these fatal crashes, people lost their trust in the aircraft. Even travel agents forbade people to travel on the Boeing 727. Furthermore, some major organizations asked their employees to not travel on the aircraft. Later investigations cleared that there was nothing wrong with the aircraft. The real problem was with the training of pilots who didn’t understand the manuals of the aircraft. The innovative flaps system of Boeing 727 left pilots in confusion hence causing fatal crashes.

The descent rates that can develop were far, far greater than what they were used to. The investigators were right that the airplane itself was safe. They left out that the pilots weren’t trained to handle it.

– Shem Malmquist, Accident Investigator & Visiting Professor, Florida Institute of Technology

At that time, people demanded to ground the B727. However, FAA denied the request as it was totally the pilot’s mistake, there was no issue with the aircraft as it was airworthy. Instead, FAA instructed airlines to train their pilots for the new aircraft. In the later journey of Boeing 727, it went through some mishaps which were due to some pilot’s or maintenance faults or some other events. However, with time the B727 was replaced by some innovative aircraft such as Boeing 757 which has more advanced technology. As a matter of fact, most of the 727 aircraft were retired by the early 2000s.

Mexicana Flight 940

Mexicana Airlines operated the Mexicana Flight 940 which crashed on 31 March 1986. It was a scheduled flight en route to Mexico City-Puerto Vallarta-Mazatlan-Los Angeles. The airline received the delivery of involved Boeing 727-264 in 1981. The airline registered the aircraft as XA-MEM and was named “Veracruz”. Captain Carlos Guadarrama Sistos was piloting the aircraft which has an experience of over 15,000 flying hours. The aircraft flew off the Benito Juarez International Airport at 08:50 local time, en route to Los Angeles airport with scheduled stopovers at Puerto Vallarta and Mazatlan. The flight was carrying 159 passengers along with 8 crew members.

Picture Credit: Air Disasters

Crash

After 15 minutes of takeoff, the aircraft suddenly faced an explosion in the fuselage causing the aircraft to shake badly. While realizing the intense situation the captain requested a return at the Benito Juarez International Airport. The crew prepared for an emergency landing at the airport but suddenly a disaster happened. The aircraft crashed into El Carbon mountain near Maravatio Michoacan town causing the aircraft to burst into flames. This disastrous crash killed all the 167 passengers and crew on board. It was said to be the deadliest crash of the Boeing 727 in history.

Causes

At first, the Middle Eastern Terrorist Group claimed responsibility for the crash. They said that it was a suicidal mission to retaliate against the United state, but obviously, that was not true. Later investigations cleared that it was not a suicidal mission but a maintenance fault of Mexicana Airlines. The US National Transportation Safety Board and Mexican Aeronautical Authorities had found the real cause of the accident. The center landing gear tire of the aircraft was filled with compressed air instead of nitrogen. Also, the tire was overheated due to the malfunctioning of the brake. After completing the investigations, Mexicana maintenance personnel were blamed for the crash, and they were unable to maintain Boeing 727.

All Nippon Airways Flight 58

ANA Flight 58, operated by All Nippon Airways was a Japanese domestic flight from Sapporo to Tokyo. The accident happened on 30 July 1971, at 02:04 local time when JASDF F-86F Sabre Fighter Jet collided mid-air with Boeing 727 causing both aircraft to crash. The ANA Flight 58 was carrying 155 passengers along with 7 crew members. Out of these passengers, 125 were in a group tour made up of members of a society for relatives of Japanese servicemen killed in WWII.

Crash

After take-off, the aircraft climbed to its cruising altitude of about 28,000 feet. At the same time, a JASDF trainee pilot and his instructor were practicing air combat maneuvers in their two Sabres near Morioka, northern Honshu. But due to some unfortunate event, the leading edge of the Sabre’s right wing struck Boeing’s left tailplane at an altitude of 26,000 feet.

The Boeing 727 could not bear the damage to the tail, causing the aircraft to get out of control. The aircraft disintegrated mid-air and the wreckage crashed near the town of Shizukuishi in Iwate Prefecture. All 162 passengers and crew on board were killed. The pilot of JASDF F-86F, made himself get out of the jet and landed safely using the parachute. The Sabre plunged into a nearby rice paddy.

Cause

When the JASDF trainee pilot was practicing the air combat maneuvers, he was unaware of the ANA aircraft. His instructor told him to break away from Flight 58 as it approached and banked lest to avoid it. But it was already too late to take any action and the Sabre’s wing struck the Boeing’s tailplane.

The trainee was later acquitted on a charge of involuntary manslaughter. However, the instructor was found guilty of criminally negligent manslaughter and sentenced to three years in prison. This incident led to the resignation of both the head of Japan’s Defence Agency and the JASDF chief of staff. It was considered to be the second deadliest crash involving Boeing 727 after Mexicana Flight 940.

Turkish Airlines Flight 452

Turkish Airlines Flight 452 was a scheduled domestic passenger flight from Istanbul Ataturk Airport To Antalya Airport, Turkey. The accident happened on 19 September 1976, when Boeing 727-200 of the Turkish airlines hit a slope of a hill at Karatepe in Isparta. The aircraft was carrying 146 passengers and 8 crew members. All the 154 occupants on board were killed.

Picture Credit: Dean Morley

Cause of Crash

This deadliest crash was totally due to the pilot’s error. The flight departed from Istanbul Ataturk Airport at 22:45 EET for one hour flight to Antalya Airport. At 23:11, the first officer called the control tower at Antalya Airport and reported that he had runway lights in sight. But the aircraft was still flying over Isparta. He requested to approach directly on Runway 36 and started to descend immediately for the final approach. He used VFR instead of IFR and start descending without any clearance.

The ATC warned the officer that they are not in the region yet and even not showing on the radar. However, the first officer said he believed his own eyes and continue descending towards the highway, north of the Isparta city. But then the captain returned to the captain realizing that they were descending towards the highway, he made a sudden climb. But unfortunately, the aircraft struck the slope of a hill at Karatepe with its right-wing and crashed.

Featured Image: Tomás Del Coro

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