ASN Aircraft accident McDonnell Douglas DC-9-82 (MD-82) HK-4374X Machiques
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Status:Accident investigation report completed and information captured
Date:Tuesday 16 August 2005
Type:Silhouette image of generic MD82 model; specific model in this crash may look slightly different
McDonnell Douglas DC-9-82 (MD-82)
Operator:West Caribbean Airways
Registration: HK-4374X
MSN: 49484/1315
First flight: 1986
Total airframe hrs:49494
Engines: 2 Pratt & Whitney JT8D-217A
Crew:Fatalities: 8 / Occupants: 8
Passengers:Fatalities: 152 / Occupants: 152
Total:Fatalities: 160 / Occupants: 160
Aircraft damage: Destroyed
Aircraft fate: Written off (damaged beyond repair)
Location:near Machiques (   Venezuela)
Phase: En route (ENR)
Nature:Int'l Non Scheduled Passenger
Departure airport:Panama City-Tocumen International Airport (PTY/MPTO), Panama
Destination airport:Fort de France-Lamentin Airport (FDF/TFFF), Martinique
The MD-82 arrived at Panama City-Tocumen after a flight from Medellín-José María Córdova Airport (MDE). The plane was then prepared to carry out a flight to the Caribbean island of Martinique.
Flight WCW 708 departed Panama City at about 06:00 UTC and climbed to its cruising altitude of FL310.
This altitude was reached at about 06:25 UTC. Sixteen minutes later the airplane began a normal climb to FL330. At 06:49 the speed began to steadily decrease from Mach 0.76. The horizontal stabilizer moved from about 2 units nose up to about 4 units nose up during this deceleration. At 06:51 UTC the crew reported at FL330 over the SIDOS waypoint, over the Colombian/Venezuelan border, and requested a direct course to the ONGAL waypoint. The controller instructed the crew to continue on the present heading and to await further clearance direct to ONGAL. The flight crew meanwhile discussed weather concerns that included possible icing conditions and the possible need to turn on engine and airfoil anti-ice.
At 06:57 UTC the flight crew requested permission to descend to FL310, which was approved. The autopilot was disconnected and the airplane started to descend. As the airplane descended past about FL315, the airspeed continued to decrease and the engine EPR decreased to about flight idle. Two minutes later a further descent to FL290 was requested, but the controller at Maiquetía did not understand that this was a request from flight 708 and asked who was calling. Flight 708 responded and immediately requested descent to FL240. The controller inquired about the state of the aircraft, to which they responded that both engines had flamed out. The controller then cleared the flight to descent at pilot's discretion.
In the meantime, the altitude alert warning had activated, followed by the stick shaker and the aural stall warning alert. The airspeed had reached a minimum of about 150 indicated air speed (IAS) knots at about FL250. The crew reported descending through FL140 and reported that they were not able to control the airplane. The aircraft descended at 7000 ft/min, and finally crashed in a swampy area.
The entire descent from FL330 had taken approx. 3 minutes and 30 seconds.

Probable Cause:

CAUSE (translated from Spanish):
Given the aerodynamic and performance conditions, the aircraft was taken to a critical state, which led to this loss of lift.
Consequently, the cockpit resource management (CRM) and decision-making during the development of emergency were misguided. This was caused by the following:
a) Awareness of environment (or situational awareness) insufficient or improper that allowed the cockpit crew, not being full and timely aware of what was happening regarding the performance and behavior of the aircraft.
b) Lack of effective communication between the cockpit crew that limited, within the decision making process, the possibility to timely choose appropriate alternatives and options and to set respective priorities in the actions taken at the time when it was established that there was a critical or emergency situation (stall condition at high altitude).

It is found that the cause of the accident is determined by the absence of appropriate action to correct the stall of the aircraft, and also in the emergency up to the impact with the ground, at an inappropriate hierarchy of priorities in implementing the procedures.
Subsequently, the operations were conducted outside of the limits and parameters set by the manufacturer's manual performance, together with an inadequate flight planning by failing to consider meteorological aspects, in addition a misinterpretation and late of the energy state of the aircraft by the flight crew. Therefore, the evidence shows the classification of "Human Factor" as a cause of this accident.

Accident investigation:

Investigating agency: JIAAC Venezuela
Status: Investigation completed
Duration: 5 years
Accident number: JIAAC-9-058-2005
Download report: Final report

Loss of control

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Follow-up / safety actions

JIAAC Venezuela issued 3 Safety Recommendations

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photo of MD-82-HK-4374X
accident date: 16-08-2005
type: McDonnell Douglas MD-82
registration: HK-4374X
photo of MD-82-HK-4374X
accident date: 16-08-2005
type: McDonnell Douglas MD-82
registration: HK-4374X
photo of MD-82-HK-4374X
accident date: 16-08-2005
type: McDonnell Douglas MD-82
registration: HK-4374X
photo of MD-82-HK-4374X
accident date: 16-08-2005
type: McDonnell Douglas MD-82
registration: HK-4374X
photo of MD-82-HK-4374X
accident date: 16-08-2005
type: McDonnell Douglas MD-82
registration: HK-4374X

Aircraft history
date registration operator remarks
04 NOV 1986 N72824 Continental Airlines
10 JAN 2005 HK-4374X West Caribbean Airlines

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 Panama City-Tocumen International Airport to Fort de France-Lamentin Airport as the crow flies is 2080 km (1300 miles).
Accident location: Exact; deduced from official accident report.

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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