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4 October 1992 - EL AL 1862

On 4 October 1992, El Al Flight 1862, a Boeing 747 cargo plane of the Israeli airline El Al, crashed into the Groeneveen and Klein-Kruitberg flats in the Bijlmermeer (colloquially "Bijlmer") neighbourhood (part of Amsterdam Zuidoost) of Amsterdam, Netherlands. A total of 43 people were killed, consisting of the plane's crew of three and a non-revenue passenger in a jump seat, plus 39 persons on the ground. Many more were injured.

The aircraft, a Boeing 747-258F, registration 4X-AXG, was traveling from New York to Tel Aviv and made a stopover at Schiphol. During the flight from New York to Schiphol, three issues were noted: fluctuations in the autopilot speed regulation, problems with the shortwave radio, and fluctuations in the voltage of engine number three.

The jet landed at Schiphol at 2:31 pm local time. New cargo was loaded into the plane; the cargo had been approved by customs authorities, but as was realized later, had not been physically inspected. The aircraft was refueled and the observed issues were repaired, at least provisionally. Captain Yitzhak Fuchs, First Officer Arnon Ohad, and Flight Engineer Gedalya Sofer crewed the aircraft. Anat Solomon, the only passenger on board, was traveling to Tel Aviv to marry an El Al employee.

Flight 1862 was scheduled to depart at 5:30 PM, but the flight was delayed until 6:20 PM. At 6:22 PM, Flight 1862 departed from runway 01L on a northerly heading. Once airborne, the plane turned to the right in order to follow the Pampus departure route, aided by the Pampus VOR/DME navigation station. Soon after the turn, at 6:27 pm, above the Gooimeer, a lake near Amsterdam, a sharp bang was heard while the aircraft was climbing through 6500 feet. Engine number three separated from the right wing of the aircraft, damaged the wing flaps, and struck engine number four, which then also separated from the wing. The two engines fell away from the plane. They attracted the attention of some pleasure boaters who had been startled by the loud noise. The boaters notified the Netherlands Coastguard of two objects they had seen falling from the sky. Captain Fuchs made a mayday call to the control tower and indicated that he wanted to return to Schiphol. At 6:28:45 PM, the captain reported: "El Al 1862, lost number three and number four engine, number three and number four engine."

ATC did not yet grasp the severity of the situation. In aviation, the word "lost" as Captain Fuchs used it generally means a loss of engine capacity. ATC therefore believed that two engines had merely stopped functioning, and did not know that they had broken off the wing. It is probable that the crew, too, did not know that the engines had fallen off the aircraft. The outboard engine on the wing of a 747 is visible from the cockpit only with some difficulty, and the inboard engine on the wing is not visible at all. Given the choices that the captain and crew made following the loss of engine power, the Dutch parliamentary inquiry commission that later studied the crash assumed that the crew did not know that both engines had broken away from the right wing.

On the evening of 4 October 1992, the runway available for traffic at Schiphol was runway 06 (the Kaagbaan). However, Captain Fuchs requested runway 27 (the Buitenveldertbaan) for an emergency landing, even though that meant landing with a considerable tailwind.

The plane was too high and close in to land when it circled back to the airport. The captain was forced to continue circling Amsterdam until he could reduce his altitude to that required for a final approach to landing. During the second circle, the captain instructed the first officer to extend the wing flaps. The inboard trailing edge flaps extended, since they were powered by the number one hydraulic system, which was still functioning. However, the outboard trailing edge flaps did not extend, because they were powered by the number four hydraulic system, which failed when the number four engine was torn from the right wing. That partial flap condition meant that the plane would have a higher pitch attitude than normal, as the plane slowed down. The leading edge flaps (powered by the pneumatic system) extended on the left wing, but not on the right wing, because of the damage inflicted on that wing when the right engines were torn off. That differential configuration caused the left wing to generate significantly more lift than the damaged right wing, especially when the pitch attitude increased as the airspeed decreased. The increased lift on the left side increased the tendency to roll further to the right, both because the right outboard aileron was inoperative and because the captain elected to increase the thrust on the left engines in an attempt to reduce his very high sink rate. As the airspeed slowed, the ability of the remaining controls to counteract the right roll diminished. The Captain finally lost all ability to prevent the plane from rolling to the right. That roll continued until it reached 90 degrees, just before the impact with the apartment houses.

At 6:35:25 PM, the first officer radioed to ATC: "Going down, 1862, going down, going down, copied, going down." In the background, the captain was heard instructing the first officer in Hebrew to raise the flaps and lower the landing gear.



Transcript of the Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR)

Time: Source: Content:
19:27:56 CREW: El Al 1862, Mayday, Mayday, we have an emergency.
19:28:00 ATC: El Al 1862, roger. Break, KLM 237, turn left heading 090.
19:28:06 ATC: El Al 1862, do you wish to return to Schiphol?
19:28:09 CREW: Affirmative, Mayday, Mayday, Mayday.
19:28:11 ATC: Turn right heading 260, field eh ... behind you eh ... in your to the west eh ... distance 18 miles.
19:28:17 CREW: Roger, we have fire on engine number number 3, we have fire on engine number 3.
19:28:22 ATC: Roger, heading 270 for downwind.
19:28:24 CREW: 270 downwind.
19:28:31 ATC: El Al 1862, surface wind 040 at 21 knots.
19:28:35 CREW: Roger.
19:28:45 CREW: El Al 1862, lost number 3 and number 4 engine, number 3 and number 4 engine.
19:28:50 ATC: Roger, 1862.
19:28:54 CREW: What will be the runway in use for me at Amsterdam?
19:28:57 ATC: Runway 6 in use, sir. Surface wind 040 at 21 knots, QNH 1012.
19:29:02 CREW: 1012, we request 27 for landing.
19:29:05 ATC: Roger, can you call Approach now, 121.2 for your line-up?
19:29:08 CREW: 121.2, bye bye.
19:29:08 ATC: Bye.
19:29:25 CREW: Schipol, El Al 1862, we have an emergency, eh ... we're number t ... eh ... 3 and 4 engine inoperative [badly readable, probably: "intending" or "returning"] landing.
19:29:32 ATC: El Al 1862, roger, copied about your emergency, contact 118.4 for your line-up.
19:29:39 CREW: 118.4, bye.
19:29:49 CREW: Schiphol, El Al 1862, we have an emergency, number 3 and number 4 engine inoperative, request 27 for landing.
19:29:58 ATC: You request 27, in that case heading 360, 360 the heading, descend to 2,000 feet on 1012, mind, the wind is 050 at 22.
19:30:10 CREW: Roger, can you say again the wind please?
19:30:12 ATC: 050 at 22.
19:30:14 CREW: Roger, what heading for Runway 27?
19:30:16 ATC: Heading 360, heading 360 and [then] give you a right turn on, to cross the localizer first, and you've got only seven miles to go from present position.
19:30:25 CREW: Roger, 36 copied.
19:31:17 ATC: El Al 1862, what is the distance you need to touchdown?
19:31:27 CREW: 12 miles final we need for landing.
19:31:30 ATC: Yeah, how many miles final ... eh correction ... how many miles track miles you need?
19:31:40 CREW: ... Flap one ... we need ... eh ... a 12 miles final for landing.
19:31:43 ATC: Okay, right right heading 100, right right heading 100.
19:31:46 CREW: Heading 100.
19:32:15 ATC: El Al 1862, just to be sure, your engines number 3 and 4 are out?
19:32:20 CREW: Number 3 and 4 are out and we have ... eh ... problems with our flaps.
19:32:25 ATC: Problem with the flaps, roger.
19:32:37 CREW: Heading 100, El Al 1862.
19:32:39 ATC: Thank you, 1862.
19:33:00 CREW: Okay, heading ... eh ... and turning, eh ... maintaining.
19:33:05 ATC: Roger, 1862, your speed is?
19:33:10 CREW: Say again?
19:33:12 ATC: Your speed?
19:33:13 CREW: Our speed is ... eh ... 260.
19:33:15 ATC: Okay, you have around 13 miles to go to touchdown, speed is all yours, you are cleared to land Runway 27.
19:33:21 CREW: Cleared to land 27.
19:33:37 ATC: El Al 1862, a right right turn heading 270 adjust on the localizer, cleared for approach.
19:33:44 CREW: Right, right 270.
19:34:18 ATC: El Al 1862, you're about to cross the localizer due to your speed, continue the right turn heading 290, heading 290, 12 track miles to go, 12 track miles to go.
19:34:28 CREW: Roger, 290.
19:34:48 ATC: El Al 1862, further right, heading 310, heading 310.
19:34:52 CREW: 310.
19:34:58 ATC: El Al 1862, continue descent 1,500 feet, 1,500.
19:35:03 CREW: 1,500, and we have a controlling problem.
19:35:06 ATC: You have a controlling problem as well, roger.
19:35:25 CREW: Going down 1862, going down, going down, copied going down. [Background: "Raise all the flaps, all the flaps raise, lower the gear."]
19:35:47 ATC: Yes, El Al 1862, your heading

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