Accident description
Last updated: 22 August 2014
Status:Final
Date:Friday 17 April 1964
Time:19:32 UTC
Type:Silhouette image of generic S210 model; specific model in this crash may look slightly different
Sud Aviation SE-210 Caravelle III
Operator:Middle East Airlines - MEA
Registration: OD-AEM
C/n / msn: 23
First flight: 1960
Crew:Fatalities: 7 / Occupants: 7
Passengers:Fatalities: 42 / Occupants: 42
Total:Fatalities: 49 / Occupants: 49
Airplane damage: Damaged beyond repair
Location:19 km (11.9 mls) SSE of Dhahran International Airport (DHA) (   Saudi Arabia) show on map
Phase: Approach (APR)
Nature:International Scheduled Passenger
Departure airport:Beirut International Airport (BEY/OLBA), Lebanon
Destination airport:Dhahran International Airport (DHA/OEDR), Saudi Arabia
Flightnumber: 444
Narrative:
Flight ME 444 departed Beirut (BEY) at 17:09 UTC and climbed to its cruising altitude of FL300. At 19:04 the aircraft reported to Bahrain Control that it was estimating Dhahran (DHA) at 19:28, and was cleared to descend to reach FL050 over the Dhahran beacon. At 19:06 weather information was reported to flight 444, which read a NNE/10 knots wind, gusting to 16, and 0,5nm visibility (in a sandstorm). At 19:26 the pilot reported estimating the Dhahran NDB in two minutes. At 19:28 it contacted Dhahran and reported "5 000 feet descending" and was cleared for an ADF approach. The controller requested the crew to report at 4000 feet and outbound at 2000 feet. One minute later it reported leaving 4000 feet and at 19:30 passing 2500 feet and turning inbound. It was then cleared to final approach and requested to report reaching minimum and runway in sight. At approximately 19:32 a short loud transmission noise was recorded by the Tower. No further message was received from the flight. It was subsequently found that the aircraft struck the sea at the completion of the procedure turn 4 NM off shore and 10 NM south of Dhahran Airport.
The investigation team concluded that there was no mechanical failure that could have caused the accident. Several theories were investigated, a.o. erroneous radio altimeter indications as a result of the sandstorm (these effects have been proven in tests done by Air France), but the team was not able to prove any of those theories.


PROBABLE CAUSE: "The probable cause of this accident can not be ascertained."

Classification:
Sandstorm
Cause undetermined
Controlled Flight Into Terrain (CFIT) - Water

Sources:
» ICAO Aircraft Accident Digest No.16, Circular 82-AN/69 (151-161)


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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 Beirut International Airport to Dhahran International Airport as the crow flies is 1629 km (1018 miles).

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Caravelle

  • 7th loss
  • 282 built
  • 3rd worst accident (at the time)
  • 12th worst accident (currently)
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 Saudi Arabia
  • worst accident (at the time)
  • 8th worst accident (currently)
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