Accident description
Last updated: 25 July 2014
Status:
Date:Saturday 23 December 1978
Time:00:39
Type:Silhouette image of generic DC93 model; specific model in this crash may look slightly different
McDonnell Douglas DC-9-32
Operator:Alitalia
Registration: I-DIKQ
C/n / msn: 47227/334
First flight: 1968
Engines: 2 Pratt & Whitney JT8D-9
Crew:Fatalities: 5 / Occupants: 5
Passengers:Fatalities: 103 / Occupants: 124
Total:Fatalities: 108 / Occupants: 129
Airplane damage: Destroyed
Airplane fate: Written off (damaged beyond repair)
Location:3 km (1.9 mls) N off Palermo (   Italy) show on map
Phase: Approach (APR)
Nature:Domestic Scheduled Passenger
Departure airport:Roma-Fiumicino Airport (FCO/LIRF), Italy
Destination airport:Palermo-Punta Raisi Airport (PMO/LICJ), Italy
Flightnumber:4128
Narrative:
At about 00:39 a.m. local time DC-9-32 I-DIKQ (named "Isola di Stromboli"), flight number AZA 4128, flying an extra-flight for the Christmas season from Rome Fiumicino to Palermo, crashed in the sea shortly before landing on runway 21 at Punta Raisi airport.
The aircraft was performing a VOR/DME approach to runway 21. The approach procedure dictated to establish on the 217 degree radial inbound of Raisi VOR/DME (identification PRS) at "Guffy" point, located 16.5 NM north-east of the VOR at 4000 feet on local QNH, then descend in order to cross the 6 DME fix at 1500 feet, the 4 DME fix at 900 feet, the 3 DME fix at 700 feet. The latter fix is also the Missed Approach Point, where, should the runway not be in sight, the crew should initiate a go-around, turning right on a 332deg heading, climb to 3000 feet and wait for ATC instructions.
The final part of the approach (about two miles) is to be flown visually, the crew having to turn left to line up for runway 21, which had a magnetic heading of 206¦.
The aircraft stopped descent at about 150 feet above the sea, as if the pilot was trying to locate the final approach area, thinking to be very close to the runway (this feeling was enhanced by the light geometry around the airport). For about nine seconds the aircraft flew almost level with the sea at 150 knots, then the wind helped to loose the final feet and the right wing impacted water. Twenty-one survivors were saved by nearby fishing boats.
At that time, Palermo airport was equipped with a primary radar Plessey ACR430, with an operative range of no more than 15 miles, usable on the North and West quadrants only due to high terrain to the East and South, and with no MTI (Moving Target Indicator) able to suppress the fixed returns, with the consequence that the inner three miles are almost blind spots to the controller. Having no secondary radar capability, the equipment is not able to give transponder answers to the controller (no identification codes and no altitude reporting), any aircraft appearing just as small unlabelled target on the screen.
Reported weather at time of crash was: wind from South, variable between South and South-West, up to more than 30 knots, visibility more than 10 kilometers, scattered cumulus clouds to the West with distant showers.
Piloting the aircraft was the first officer (seven years as F/E, just three months as pilot, with 173 hours on the DC-9). The captain was a senior pilot, with great experience on the Caravelles, but just 418 hours on the DC-9.


Classification:
Controlled Flight Into Terrain (CFIT) - Water

Sources:
» Enrico Zaffiri
» Volare Vol. 5, No.44


Photos

photo of McDonnell Douglas DC-9-32 I-DIKQ
photo of McDonnell Douglas DC-9-32 I-DIKQ
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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 Roma-Fiumicino Airport to Palermo-Punta Raisi Airport as the crow flies is 407 km (254 miles).

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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DC-9-30

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