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Last updated: 15 November 2018
Status:Final
Date:Monday 24 March 1952
Time:03:07
Type:Silhouette image of generic L18 model; specific model in this crash may look slightly different
Lockheed 18-07-01 Lodestar
Operator:Société Africaine des Transports Tropicaux - SATT
Registration: F-ARTE
C/n / msn: 18-2005
First flight: 1940
Crew:Fatalities: 3 / Occupants: 3
Passengers:Fatalities: 14 / Occupants: 18
Total:Fatalities: 17 / Occupants: 21
Aircraft damage: Destroyed
Aircraft fate: Written off (damaged beyond repair)
Location:2,5 km (1.6 mls) NE of Gao Airport (GAQ) (   Mali)
Phase: Initial climb (ICL)
Nature:Int'l Non Scheduled Passenger
Departure airport:Gao Airport (GAQ/GAGO), Mali
Destination airport:Tamanrasset Airport (TMR/DAAT), Algeria
Narrative:
A Lockheed 18 Lodestar was destroyed when it crashed, shortly after a night takeoff from Gao Airport in Mali. Four of the 21 occupants survived the accident.
The non-scheduled flight was a round trip from Nice, France, to Abidjan. It departed from Nice on 21 March 1952 and stopped at Algiers, El Golia and Tamanrasset where the night war spent. On the following day the aircraft arrived at Abidjan via Gao and Ouagadougou.
The following morning the aircraft left Abidjan on its return flight, a night stop being scheduled at Tamanrasset. However, the flight was behind schedule and in view of the fact that Tamanrasset was not provided with night markings, the pilot decided to spend the night at Gao and leave the following morning at about 0900 hours. He mentioned also that he was tired. Later that evening word was received from the company which caused the pilot to change his plans and decide to leave at 0300.
On arrival at the meteorological office for preparation of the pre-flight plan, the pilot, during a conversation with the air traffic controller, complained that he was very tired and mentioned that the Gao-Nice flight would have to be made with only short stops on the way and that he had to fly in an aircraft not equipped with an automatic pilot and in which he was also required to perform the duties of navigator. He seemed to dread the take-off at night very much and went so far as to ask the controller to prohibit him from taking off. The controller could not comply with such a request, as the flight planned was normal from the regulation point of view.
After taxying to the end of the runway, the engines were run up for about seven or eight minutes and, after receiving clearance, the aircraft took off after a run of about 900 metres.
The landing lights were not used on take-off.
In the direction of take-off the aerodrome is about ten metres above the surrounding plain. At the end of the runway there is a sharp drop and the take-off path is therefore completely clear of any obstructions. The plain, stretching to the horizon, is absolutely flat except for minor rolls which never exceed a height of one metre.
According to the surviving passengers, who were seated at the rear of the aircraft, after a flight of about fifteen or twenty seconds a series of shocks, mild at first becoming progressively more violent, gave the impression that the aircraft was running over uneven ground.
The wreckage of the aircraft was located approximately 2 km. beyond the cliff, nearly on the extended centre line of the runway. The first contact with the ground occurred at 1500 metres from the end of the runway and approximately on its centre line, the first contacts being made with the propellers followed by the underside of the fuselage at a flat angle and at high speed.

Probable Cause:

PROBABLE CAUSE: "An untimely contact with the ground after a take-off at night without any visible reference beyond the runway lights. The contact was due to an unsuspected loss of altitude. The reasons for this poor altitude control are not well-known; they may be attributed to the pilot's state of fatigue or to an occurrence, perhaps of minor significance in the cockpit which distracted the pilot's attention."

Classification:
Insufficient rest / fatigue
Controlled Flight Into Terrain (CFIT) - Ground

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Map
This map shows the airport of departure and the intended destination of the flight. The line between the airports does not display the exact flight path.
Distance from Gao Airport to Tamanrasset Airport as the crow flies is 922 km (576 miles).
Accident location: Exact; deduced from official accident report.

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Lockheed 18

  • 624 built
  • 127th loss
  • 50th fatal accident
  • 3rd worst accident (at the time)
  • 4th worst accident (currently)
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 Mali
  • The worst accident (at the time)
  • 3rd worst accident (currently)
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