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Accident description
Last updated: 17 November 2017
Status:Final
Date:Wednesday 11 July 1973
Time:14:03
Type:Silhouette image of generic B703 model; specific model in this crash may look slightly different
Boeing 707-345C
Operator:Varig
Registration: PP-VJZ
C/n / msn: 19841/683
First flight: 1968
Engines: 4 Pratt & Whitney JT3D-3B
Crew:Fatalities: 7 / Occupants: 17
Passengers:Fatalities: 116 / Occupants: 117
Total:Fatalities: 123 / Occupants: 134
Airplane damage: Destroyed
Airplane fate: Written off (damaged beyond repair)
Location:5 km (3.1 mls) W of Paris-Orly Airport (ORY) (   France)
Phase: Approach (APR)
Nature:International Scheduled Passenger
Departure airport:Rio de Janeiro-Galećo International Airport, RJ (GIG/SBGL), Brazil
Destination airport:Paris-Orly Airport (ORY/LFPO), France
Flightnumber: 820
Narrative:
Varig Flight 820 departed Rio de Janeiro (GIG) at 03:03 for a flight to Paris-Orly (ORY). The en route part of the flight was uneventful. At 13:57 the aircraft had descended to FL80 and contacted Orly approach, who told the crew to maintain FL80 and head to the OLS VOR which would take the aircraft to the downwind leg of runway 26. At 13:58:20 the flight crew contacted Orly approach and reported a "problem with fire on board". An emergency descent was requested. At 13:59 clearance was given to descend to 3000 feet for a runway 07 landing, making a straight-in approach possible. While the situation on board was getting worse (smoke entering the cockpit and passengers becoming asphyxiated), a clearance to descend to 2000 feet was given at 14:01:10. The flight crew put on oxygen masks as smoke was making it impossible to read the instruments. At 14:03 the pilot decided to make an emergency landing 5 km short of the runway with gear down and flaps at 80deg. The Boeing approached with considerable nose-up attitude, in a slight left bank. The aircraft truncated some small trees and made a heavy landing on a field. Both main gears collapsed and the engines were torn off in the subsequent skid. The fuselage however, remained intact. Ten occupants (all crewmembers) evacuated the aircraft. By the time the firemen arrived (6-7 minutes later) the fire had burned through the roof and there was no sign of life. Of the four unconscious occupants the firemen could evacuate, only one survived.

Probable Cause:

PROBABLE CAUSE: "A fire which appears to have started in the washbasin unit of the aft right toilet. It was detected because smoke had entered the adjacent left toilet. The fire may have been started by an electrical fault or by the carelessness of a passenger. The difficulty in locating the fire made the actions of cabin personnel ineffective. The flight crew did not have the facilities to intervene usefully from the cockpit against the spread of the fire and the invasion of smoke.
The lack of visibility in the cockpit prompted the crew to decided on a forced landing. At the time of touch-down the fire was confined to the area of the aft toilets. The occupants of the passenger cabin were poisoned, to varying degrees by carbon monoxide and other combustion products."

Accident investigation:
cover
Investigating agency: BEA
Status: Investigation completed
Duration: 2 years and 9 months
Accident number: Report pp-z730711
Download report: Final report

Classification:

Forced landing outside airport

Sources:
» ICAO Circular 132-AN/93 (68-78)
» 'Varig 707 had a toilet fire', Flight International 17.04.1976 (995)


Follow-up / safety actions

NTSB issued 4 Safety Recommendations

Show all AD's and Safety Recommendations

Photos

photo of Boeing 707-345C PP-VJZ
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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 Rio de Janeiro-Galećo International Airport, RJ to Paris-Orly Airport as the crow flies is 9119 km (5699 miles).
Accident location: Approximate; accuracy within a few kilometers.

This information is not presented as the Flight Safety Foundation or the Aviation Safety Network’s opinion as to the cause of the accident. It is preliminary and is based on the facts as they are known at this time.
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Boeing 707

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  • 43rd loss
  • 31st fatal accident
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