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Air Pontival Flight 101
Northwest Airlines Boeing 727-200
A Northwest Airlines 727, similar to the one involved in the crash
Accident summary
Date May 23, 1996
Summary Bird strike, pilot error
Site near Los Llamas River, Llamadovskaya, Pontival, Margovya
Passengers 124
Crew 10
Injuries (non-fatal) 2
Fatalities 132
Survivors 2
Aircraft type Boeing 727-251Adv
Operator Air Pontival
Registration M-FGGB
Flight origin Rurik Sampuv International Airport

Gobrovgrad, Pontival, Margovya

Destination Casinovich National Airport

Casinovich, Sugalskaya, Margovya

Air Pontival Flight 101 was a scheduled domestic passenger flight operated by Air Pontival from Gobrovgrad, Pontival to Casinovich, Sugalskaya. On May 23, 1996, the Boeing 727-251Adv operating the route struck a flock of scarlet macaws near Llamadovskaya, Pontival. The plane crashed into the banks of the Los Llamas River when the aircraft lost altitude in a risky maneuver to turn the plane back towards Llamadovskaya airport. 7 out of 10 crew members and all 124 passengers were killed in the crash, and one of the surviving flight crew members, the flight engineer, died on the way to the hospital. Fifteen members of the MBA team Pontival Piranhas, as well as its head coach Ivan Amrovich, were killed in the crash. The team had been headed for Casinovich to face the Sugalskaya Gamblers in the 1996 MBA Finals.

HistoryEdit

The Boeing 727 involved in the crash had originally been flown by Northwest Airlines in December 1972. The 727 was initially leased to Air Pontival by Northwest on July 1990 and eventually sold to the Margovyan airline on December 1993. The aircraft was reregistered as M-FGGB upon completion of transfer to Air Pontival.

The flight crew consisted of 45-year-old Captain Ivan Testudov, a former Soviet Air Force pilot who emigrated to Margovya from Belarus in 1992; 30-year-old First Officer Vera Eugenio from Pucallpa, Peru; and 56-year-old Flight Engineer Pablo Rocher of Cochabamba, Bolivia. Captain Testudov had just 1,002 hours of flight time in the 727. First Officer Eugenio had only 330 hours, as she had been hired by Air Pontival only three months before the incident, and two months after her Peruvian pilot's license was recognized and approved by the AARM. Flight Engineer Rocher had over 12,000 hours of flight time in the 727, but only 57 hours with Air Pontival. Captain Testudov held seniority over the other two flight crew members due to the length of his tenure in Air Pontival. First Officer Eugenio was the pilot flying, under observation from Testudov.

AccidentEdit

Air Pontival Flight 101 took off from Rurik Sampuv International Airport at 2:45 pm local time, following a twenty-minute delay while waiting for the players of the Pontival Piranhas basketball team to board the flight. While climbing up to flight level 330 (33,000 feet), the 727 encountered a flock of scarlet macaws at 12,000 feet, leading to loss of power in engines 2 and 3. The aircraft began banking to the right due to the unequal thrust provided by the aircraft's engines. The flight crew declared an emergency and requested permission to land at Vladimir Agpayev International Airport in Llamadovskaya, Pontival. The first officer handed over control of the aircraft to the captain, who performed a risky maneuver to turn the aircraft around by using the bank angle that it had developed when engines 2 and 3 were shut down. The maneuver, while successful in turning the aircraft back towards Llamadovskaya, had resulted in a loss of altitude, and because the 727 was not intended to fly on only one engine for an extended period of time, the aircraft lost even more altitude. The first officer and flight engineer attempted to start up the other two engines, but engine 3 flamed out three seconds after being restarted. The aircraft banked to the right again, causing the flight crew to lose visual contact with the runway at Llamadovskaya. The captain attempted to correct the aircraft's flight angle and realign with the runway, but then the ground proximity warning system went off, as well as the stick shaker. The captain ordered maximum power to the remaining engine, and he and the first officer attempted to increase their altitude by lifting the nose.

The 727 struck a hill on the banks of the Los Llamas River at 2:53 pm local time. The cockpit detached from the main fuselage upon impact, and the cockpit section traveled at least 750 meters before landing back on the ground. The crash was witnessed by a Bureau of Rivers, Parks, and Wildlife Management patrol boat, whose crew called in the crash and resulting emergency. Out of the 124 passengers and 10 crew, only the 3 members of the flight crew survived the initial crash, and the flight engineer died on the way to the hospital, leaving only 2 survivors.

Fifteen players of the MBA team Pontival Piranhas were among those killed in the crash, along with the team's head coach, Ivan Amrovich.

Investigation and recommendationsEdit

The investigation focused on the circumstances which forced Air Pontival 101 to attempt an emergency landing in Llamadovskaya. The flight crew reported encountering a flock of birds while ascending above the city. At least six confirmed bird strikes had been reported by aircrews above Llamadovskaya, and although all incidents resulted in the aircraft involved landing back safely in Llamadovskaya, at least one bird strike led to a hull-loss accident near Llamadovskaya. The Aviation Authority of the Republic of Margovya (AARM), in cooperation with the Bureau of Rivers, Parks, and Wildlife Management (BRPWM), conducted a study of bird species living in the area around Llamadovskaya and discovered that various native species, mostly the scarlet macaws, were disturbed by the increased volume of flights around Llamadovskaya ever since the airport there had been upgraded to accomodate long-haul, intercontinental, and transoceanic flights. The birds would usually fly at substantial heights in the vicinity of the airport and nearby air routes, which led to the increase of bird strikes in the Llamadovskaya area.

The AARM also investigated the possibility that the aircrew of Flight 101 were not experienced enough in the type of aircraft they were flying. The flight crew had a combined total of more than 13,300 flight hours in the 727, but most of the experience was with the flight engineer, who despite being the most experienced among the three pilots, was in the most junior position in the flight crew due to Air Pontival regulations. Captain Testudov's experience in the 727 was also investigated, as the cockpit voice recorder had recorded him calling the 727 a "Yakovlev", which is a physically similar but otherwise different type of aircraft. Testudov had been trained to fly a Yakovlev Yak-42, among other types of planes, during his service in the Soviet Armed Forces. One of the manouvers he was trained in was a type of aerial turnaround that was only to be attempted if a Yak-42 had lost two of its three engines, and if the nearest airfield was to the relative rear of the aircraft. The manouver had been found to work on the Yak-42, and even the Tupolev Tu-154 (another Soviet-designed trijet), but not the 727. The captain's attempt of a maneuver not designed for his aircraft may have indirectly led to the crash of Flight 101.

In the final report released by the AARM, the investigation concluded that a combination of natural uncontrollable factors and pilot error, specifically a non-orthodox maneuver to recover the aircraft, had led to the crash of Air Pontival Flight 101.

DramatizationEdit

The incident was dramatized in the 2009 MNBN film Fall of the Piranhas, starring Gregoriy Umalin, Yordana Puevskaya, and Dynamo Keruzov as the flight crew of Air Pontival 101.

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