|Margovyan Airlines Flight 4892|
A United Airlines DC-8, similar to the one involved in the crash
|Date||December 26, 1994|
|Summary||Fuel exhaustion due to ATC error; bird strike leading to controlled flight into terrain|
|Site||Svolochenko District, Llamadovskaya, Pontival, Margovya|
|Injuries (non-fatal)||121 (99 on plane, 22 on ground)|
|Fatalities||51 (3 on ground)|
|Aircraft type||Douglas DC-8-61|
|Flight origin|| Val de Cans International Airport|
|Destination|| Vladimir Agpayev International Airport|
Llamadovskaya, Pontival, Margovya
Margovyan Airlines Flight 4892 was an international scheduled passenger flight operated by Margovyan Airlines from Belem, Brazil, to Llamadovskaya, Pontival, Margovya. On December 26, 1994, a Douglas DC-8-61 operating the flight, registered as M-BCXK, ran out of fuel while on a holding pattern to land at Vladimir Agpayev International Airport in Llamadovskaya, Pontival; and the airplane crashed into the Svolochenko District of Llamadovskaya after encountering a flock of birds while attempting to make an emergency landing in Llamadovskaya. One out of nine crew members and 47 out of 158 passengers were killed, as well as 3 people on the ground.
The Douglas DC-8-61 involved in the accident, registration M-BCXK, had been in service with Margovyan Airlines since 1970. The plane took off from Belem at 3:17:15 PM local time, almost twenty minutes later than planned, following an emergency change in the flight crew.
The flight crew consisted of 45-year-old Captain Yelizaveta Meskina, 43-year-old First Officer Fatima Ilgamova, and 44-year-old Flight Engineer Andzhela Arasova. Captain Meskina had 3,987 hours of flight time with the DC-8, although she had not flown a DC-8 as a captain for at least two years before the incident. First Officer Ilgamova had over 5,016 hours with the DC-8. Flight Engineer Arasova had just 2,312 hours in the DC-8. Arasova, who would have boarded the flight as a passenger, had to take over the original flight engineer for the flight, 47-year-old Andrian Kharchenko, who had been diagnosed with mild encephalitis just a few hours before the flight.
Margovyan Airlines Flight 4892 was told to enter a holding pattern thirty miles east of Llamadovskaya by the Llamadovskaya ATC on 4:38:56 PM local time. The first holding pattern lasted 20 minutes. MV 4892 entered two more holding patterns of 29 minutes and 12 minutes. Then, rainstorms arrived over Llamadovskaya, adding further delays to the aircraft holding near Llamadovskaya. The flight engineer informed the crew that their plane had only about 20 minutes of fuel left, prompting the captain to request a landing priority from the Llamadovskaya ATC. Just before the ATC was to give MV 4892 landing clearance, the shifts in the control tower changed, and the outgoing ATC failed to remind the incoming ATC of MV 4892's predicament. On 6:11:12 PM local time, MV 4892 declared an emergency and informed the Llamadovskaya approach controller that they were making an emergency landing at the airport. The lack of fuel necessitated their landing the plane on the first attempt.
The flight crew made a visual alignment with the runway and had just deployed the landing gear when a flock of scarlet macaws flew across the path of the aircraft. Attempts to avoid the flock failed, and at least three birds were struck by the DC-8. As the flight crew attempted to realign the craft with the runway, the aircraft ran out of fuel, causing all four engines to shut down at the same time. The controller lost contact with the plane at 6:13 PM. The aircraft lost height and crashed into 3 houses in the Svolochenko District of Llamadovskaya, killing 3 people on the ground and injuring 22.
Because there was no more fuel in the tanks of the DC-8, there was no fire, which probably led to saving some of the survivors' lives. 48 out of 167 passengers and crew were killed. The aircraft was written off as damaged beyond repair.
One of the fatalities was eleven-month-old Borislav Umalin, then the youngest son of Santa Susana Representative Gregoriy Umalin. Umalin, his wife Katrina, and eldest son Vladimir were injured in the crash. The Umalin family had gone on vacation to Belem with the families of a few other congressmen and senators of Margovya. Katrina Umalina blamed Ivan Kasimov, the outgoing air traffic controller in Llamadovskaya during the incident, for causing the crash and killing her son, and Umalina eventually stabbed Kasimov to death at the controller's home in Ruma Llamas, a suburb of Llamadovskaya, two months after the incident. Umalina was arrested by the Llamadovskaya police and sentenced to death by electric chair for murder. However, her sentence was eventually downgraded from the death penalty to life imprisonment, to 25 years in jail, and then to just ten years, before she was released in early 2001 on account of good behavior, after being behind bars for only six years. She was also given a presidential pardon by then-President Ruma Dumayev. whose vice president was Umalina's husband Gregoriy.
Investigation and recommendationsEdit
An AARM investigation, led by Margovyan-American investigator Vera del Quiev, was assigned to investigate the crash. Since the incident involved an American-made aircraft, the NTSB also assisted with the investigation, and helped to send the DC-8's black boxes to the United States.
The investigation focused on determining why the approach controller had failed to give MV 4892 clearance to land at the airport after the crew had declared an emergency. Interviews with the controllers serving during the incident revealed that the outgoing controllers did not inform the incoming controllers of any information regarding incoming and outgoing flights, instead relying on the pilots to inform the controllers if any situation or emergency pops up during the approach. Also, only three controllers were working at the tower during the day of the incident, which led to a work overload when flights to the provincial capital Gobrovgrad had to be suspended after a riot regarding a controversial decision in a basketball game spread to the city's airport, necessitating a temporary shutdown until the situation had calmed down. Flights bound for Gobrovgrad had to be rerouted to Llamadovskaya, which did not have the necessary facilities to handle such a large amount of incoming flights.
The possibility of an incapacitated pilot came up when blood tests on the surviving crew members revealed that Captain Meskina had elevated blood alcohol levels and cocaine in her blood. Only one other crew member, 37-year-old Senior Air Steward Yegor Yegorov, the only fatality among the crew, also had alcohol and cocaine in his blood tests. Margovyan Airlines lawyers had managed to make Meskina's blood results inadmissible in a court of law, and playbacks of the cockpit voice recorder revealed that Meskina had been "reasonably functional" throughout the flight up until its last moments. In a stunning public interview for the AARM, Meskina admitted that she had had an on-again-off-again affair with Yegorov, and that the two of them did consume large amounts of alcohol and drugs in Belem during the night before the flight, but eventually the AARM ruled out pilot error as a probable cause of the crash.
In the final AARM report on Flight 4892 released in 1995, the AARM recommended that there be at least a minimum of five air traffic controllers operating in every major Margovyan airport, and that the controllers should be trained in proper time management concerning landing incoming flights. Controllers also must now inform their replacements of the statuses of all the flights under their responsibility.
After the incident, all Margovyan Airlines services operated from Llamadovskaya were suspended for up to two years. The Belem-Llamadovskaya route was reopened on November 15, 1996; and the flight number was changed from 4892 to 4712. A Boeing 757 and an Airbus A318 flies the route on alternating days.
The incident was dramatized in the 2012 MNBN film Flight 4892, starring Tanya Kalinina, Gavrina Kumilyova, Maria Atolova, Mistislav Pankavuranov, Lev Arigov, Hafimwahlid Talnaev, and Andrea G.. The film focuses on Yelizaveta Meskina's alcoholism, drug addiction, and affair with Yegor Yegorov, with the actual investigation of the crash serving only as a secondary plot.