EC-HFP, the aircraft involved, in July 2008
|Date||20 August 2008|
|Summary||Crashed on take-off due to improper flaps and slat selection|
|Site||Madrid-Barajas Airport, Madrid, Spain |
|Aircraft type||McDonnell Douglas MD-82|
|IATA flight No.||JK5022|
|ICAO flight No.||JKK5022|
|Call sign||SPANAIR 5022|
|Flight origin||Barcelona-El Prat Airport|
|Destination||Gran Canaria Airport|
Spanair Flight 5022 (JK5022) was a scheduled domestic passenger flight from Barcelona-El Prat Airport to Gran Canaria Airport, Spain, via Madrid-Barajas Airport that crashed just after take-off from runway 36L at Madrid Airport at 14:24 CEST (12:24 UTC) on 20 August 2008. The aircraft was a McDonnell Douglas MD-82, registration EC-HFP. Of the 172 passengers and crew on board, 154 died and 18 survived.
It was the only fatal accident for Spanair (part of the SAS Group) in the 25-year history of the company, and the 14th fatal accident and 24th hull loss involving McDonnell Douglas MD-80 series aircraft. It was Spain's deadliest accident since the 1983 crash of Avianca Flight 011.
There were 166 passengers and six crew members on board, including the 39-year-old captain and the 31-year-old first officer.:6
This was the flight's second attempted take-off: fifty-nine minutes earlier, the pilots had abandoned a departure because of excessive temperatures in the ram air temperature (RAT) probe. The aircraft was taken to a parking area where maintenance workers de-activated the RAT probe's heater. (The aircraft was permitted to fly with an inoperable RAT probe heater because icing was not expected during the flight).:37-38 Another takeoff was then attempted, during which the accident occurred.
The accident occurred during the second attempt, at 14:24 local time,:6 due to the pilot's failure to deploy the flaps and slats as required for takeoff. Without the use of these "high-lift" devices, the wings could not generate enough lift to keep the aircraft airborne.[Note 1] The MD-80 has a warning system (the take-off warning system or TOWS) that should have alerted the pilots that the aircraft was not correctly configured for take-off. However, the warning did not sound, and the pilots continued with the attempt. The aircraft left the ground momentarily, rolled to the right, and impacted the ground next to the runway. The wings separated from the aircraft and the fuselage broke into two main parts; the wings and the rear two-thirds of the fuselage were engulfed by fire.:57-69
Of the 172 people on board, 146 perished in the crash or immediately after in the fire; of the twenty-six passengers and crew rescued alive from the crash site, six died before arriving at hospital, and two more died in hospital, bringing the total number of fatalities to 154.:6
Most of the deceased and 16 of the survivors were Spanish nationals; nineteen of the deceased and two survivors were of other nationalities.:6
The crash flung some of the survivors clear of the wreckage and into a stream, lessening the severity of their burns. A 30-year-old woman with British and Spanish dual citizenship survived with a punctured lung and broken left arm but no burns, as she was flung from row 6, still attached to her seat, into the stream.
The accident was investigated by the Civil Aviation Accident and Incident Investigation Commission (CIAIAC). Representatives from the US National Transportation Safety Board, the aircraft manufacturer Boeing (as successor to McDonnell Douglas, the original aircraft manufacturer), and the engine manufacturer Pratt and Whitney supported the investigation.:xvii
A preliminary report on the accident was released by CIAIAC on 6 October 2008. Information extracted from the Flight data recorder showed that the aircraft had taken off with flaps at 0°, and that the alarm for that abnormal takeoff configuration had not sounded. The report hinted at no other cause of the accident. Both the engines and thrust reversers were excluded as causes of the accident.
On 17 August 2009, CIAIAC released an interim report on the incident. The interim report confirmed the preliminary report's conclusion that the crash was caused by an attempt to take off with the flaps and slats retracted, which constituted an improper configuration, and noted that safeguards that should have prevented the crash failed to do so. The cockpit recordings revealed that the pilots omitted the "set and check the flap/slat lever and lights" item in the After Start checklist. In the Takeoff Imminent verification checklist the copilot had simply repeated the correct flap and slat position values without actually checking them, as shown by the physical evidence. All three safety barriers provided to avoid the takeoff in an inappropriate configuration were defeated: the configuration checklist, the confirm and verify checklist, and the Take-off Warning System (TOWS). The report also made a number of safety recommendations intended to prevent accidents like this from happening again.
CIAIAC published a further progress note in August 2010, and its final report in July 2011.
Some early eye-witness accounts suggested that the aircraft suffered an engine fire or explosion before crashing, but the Spanish airport authority AENA released a video showing that the engines neither exploded nor caught fire during take-off. Manuel Bautista, Director General of Spain's civil aviation authority, went as far as to state: "The engine is not the cause of the accident", surmising that a chain of events combining together was more likely than a single cause.
There has been considerable interest in the faulty air temperature probe (the RAT sensor,[Note 2] located on the front of the aircraft near the cockpit) that initially caused the pilot to turn the aircraft back for maintenance before the second takeoff attempt. The mechanic simply deactivated the probe because the aircraft's Minimum Equipment List allowed it to be left inoperative. On 22 August investigators interviewed the mechanic, who defended his action by saying that it had nothing to do with the crash. Spanair has supported the mechanic's view that deactivation of the probe is an accepted procedure. On 1 September a report, quoting Spanair, stated that the problem detected on the first takeoff attempt was overheating caused by a temperature gauge's de-icing system, rather than a malfunction of the temperature gauge itself, and that since icing was not a risk on that flight, the de-icing system had been deactivated by the mechanic with the captain's approval.
On 11 May 2010, leaked details from the cockpit voice recorder (CVR) were released by Spanish media. The recording showed that both pilots were concerned about a repair job performed earlier on the day of the crash, in which mechanics used an ice pack to cool an overheating temperature sensor and removed a fuse. The BBC reported that the judge investigating the crash was to question three mechanics on suspicion of manslaughter.[needs update] These were the head of maintenance for Spanair at Barajas and the two mechanics who checked the aircraft before take-off.
Pictures of the wreckage showed one of the thrust reversers in the deployed position,[Note 3] and an early theory constructed in the media was that the thrust reverser of the No. 2 (right side) engine activated during the climb causing the aircraft to yaw suddenly to the right. This theory fell apart for three reasons: firstly, aircraft engineer Alberto Garcia pointed out that the MD-82 has tail-mounted engines positioned close to each other and to the aircraft's longitudinal axis, so that any yaw from asymmetric thrust would be small. Secondly, examination of the aircraft's maintenance logs showed that the thrust reverser on the right-side engine had been deactivated pending repair. It had been wired shut, and tape placed over the cockpit control to alert the crew. The MD-82 is permitted to fly with just one operable thrust reverser.:63 Thirdly, the engine which had been pictured was the left engine, not the right one.:63 The investigation concluded that the position of its thrust reverser was a result of the accident, not a cause of it.:63
El Mundo reported that the CVR showed that the pilot had said "Flaps OK, Slats OK" to the co-pilot. The article confirmed that the flaps had not been extended and that the alarm for that condition had not sounded. The final report concluded that the failure to deploy flaps was the cause of the accident.
The maintenance logbook of the aircraft has comments, two days before the crash, for an "autoslats failure" visual alarm occurring on slats extension; however autoslats are not used on takeoff,[failed verification] and it cannot be inferred that the slats system had a defect.
In an article published on 7 September, El Mundo suggested that during the flight preparation and takeoff attempts, the aircraft had some of its systems in flight mode rather than ground mode. Investigators noted that one particular ground-sensing relay (relay R2-5) was responsible for de-energizing the RAT probe heater when on the ground, and for inhibiting TOWS when in the air. They theorised that a fault in this relay could explain both the overheating of the probe and why the flaps and slats alarm had not sounded. When the R2-5 relay was recovered from the wreckage it was subjected to detailed examination. Two stuck contacts within the relay were identified, which would explain the overheating both on the day of the accident and the intermittent incidents recorded over the previous few days. That fault, however, would not have affected the operation of the TOWS system, and no fault was found that would have affected TOWS.:192-198
James W. Hudspeth, an investigator of a previous near accident (an MD-83, starting from Lanzarote) that was superficially similar, pointed out that the fuse of the so-called "left ground control relay" at position K-33 of the control panel might have been the actual culprit in the erroneous flight mode: Hudspeth found out during a 2-week investigation at Lanzarote that it is customary in normal maintenance routine to temporarily remove this circuit-breaker to engage flight mode, but the circuit-breaker is afterwards sometimes not replaced correctly. Because of the frequent handling of this circuit-breaker, it is also not easy to visually check that it is set properly (as is customary for the pilots to do when they enter the cockpit[failed verification]). The CIAIAC team on the case of JK 5022 discounted this possibility because if the circuit-breaker had been left open it would also have affected the operation of the stall warning system, and the CVR recording showed that the stall warning system was functioning normally.:95-200
Spanish daily El Pais reported that, as revealed in an internal report issued by Spanair, malware which had infected the airline's central computer system used to monitor technical problems with its aircraft may have resulted in a failure to raise an alarm over multiple problems with the aircraft. A judge ordered the airline to provide all the computer system's logs from the days before and after the crash.
The CIAIAC published its final report into the accident on 26 July 2011.
It determined that the cause of the accident was:
The CIAIAC determined the following contributory factors:
Media related to Spanair Flight JK 5022 at Wikimedia Commons