Tiger Flight 66

The Crash Of Tiger Line Flight 66

Brief Background

Flying Tiger Line’ airline, also known as ‘Flying Tigers’ was a cargo delivery service airline. It began its operations in 1945 and handed over company ownership to Fedex in 1989. Its Head Quarters is in Los Angeles International Airport in California, USA.

The Following information was taken from the ASN website and also from personal analysis of the black box for the Patrick’s Aviation website. (this particular investigation does not have many written records on it, therefore information and resources were limited)

First Crash

The airlines first air crash accident involved Flight 66 and it occurred on February the 19th 1989.

Aircraft type & Airline operator

The aircraft was a Boeing 742-249F, registered as N807FT and was operated by Flying Tiger Line.


There were 4 crew members on board, all of whom died on impact.


The flight was on an en-route flight from Changi Airport in Singapore to Sultan Abdul aziz Shah Airport in Malaysia.

Crash type

The crash was classed as a 'controlled flight into terrain' type.

Pilot flying

The pilot flying the plane at the time was the First Officer

Human factors elements involved

  • Communication error or breakdown
  • Poor situational awareness


This crash was said to be a result of human error because there was a breakdown in communication between the air traffic controller (ATC) in Kuala Lumpur and the Crew of flight 66.
The cockpit voice recorder (blackbox), which was recovered, revealed the conversation between both parties. The significant and major cause of the accident was the misinterpretation of the clearance given by the ATC. The video, posted below, reveals that, upon approach to Kuala Lumpar airport, the ATC had instructed the crew to descend to 2400ft; but the crew misinterpreted the clearance and descended to 400ft.
By the words of the ATC, he was in the wrong in the beginning as he hadn't used the correct phraseology required under the ICAO standards. Instead of saying "descend and maintain two thousand four hundred feet (2400ft)”, which was the intended clearance, he simply and bluntly instructed as so: "descend two four zero zero".
Investigators found that this clearance was very misleading to the pilot because of the way the ATC phrased his sentence. The "two" could have been misinterpreted for "to". The numerical "two" was misinterpreted as the English preposition "to".
Investigators further found that the crew made communication errors as well. The captain also had not used the proper phraseology in response to his ATC clearance. He should have replied, as a way of rechecking, as so: "Roger, descend and maintain four-hundred feet". However, he did not do so, and like the ATC he also bluntly replied saying "okay, four zero zero".
As a result, the crew descended to 400ft. The accident still could have been avoided had the Captain and First Officer showed the right attitudes towards the task. The First Officer, who was the pilot in control, identified that he could not see the airport or the runway. However, he had not pursued this discovery further. When he mentioned it to the Captain, he responded saying that he knew the airport and the runway approach well and they would be fine.

Situational Awareness

Situational awareness is defined by Robson (2008) as the process of “gathering data, allocating priorities and processing the data in order of importance” (page 192, para 8.5)
The black box recording clearly reveals the Ground Proximity Warning System being set off in the background. It sounded numerous times during the descent, but the crew ignored them. Had these alarms and the first officers concerns been taken seriously, the error could have detected earlier on.
As the alarms continued in the back ground, and with the poor situational awareness of the crew, it didn’t take long for the aircraft to crash into a hillside standing at a height of 437ft above sea level.

Black box recording of Flight 66 (original)



There were multiple errors involved in this accident. All of which were attributable to human error. Communication breakdown along with the improper use of ICAO standardized phraseologies and poor situational awareness, are factors which induced the crash.


Robertson, D.(2008)Human Being Pilot(1st edition).Aviation Theory Centre, Cheltenham, Victoria, June 2008.
Boeing 747 Black Box (2011) Retreived on the 25/09/2012 from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SlPL_nof2lA.

Contributors to this page

Authors / Editors

  • Vili Hasiata

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