XL Airways Germany Flight 888T Accident

Date: 27 November 2008

Time: 16:47 local (15:46Z)

Location: Mediterranean Sea off the coast near Perpignan (France)

Registration: D-AXLA

Flight Number: Flight 888T

Aircraft Type: Airbus A320-232

Operated by: XL Airways Germany

POB: 7

Fatalities: 7

Airplane damage: Written off

Airplane fate: Written off (damaged beyond repair)


This was a test flight that was carried out on the 27th of November 2008. The aircraft which was an Airbus A320-232 had been leased from Air New Zealand to XL Airways Germany. This flight was conducted on very low altitude and low speed which together with malfunctioned angle of attack sensors contributed to the stalling of the aircraft which plunged into the Mediterranean Sea, just off the coast near Perpignan.

d-axla_a320.jpg perpignan-crash.preview.jpg
XL Flight 888T, Embedded from[http://airlineworld.wordpress.com] on 22September 2010 Crash Site(Mediterranean Sea), Embedded from[http://avherald.com/h?article=410c9cec&opt=1024] on 22 September 2010

Note: On the day of the accident the aircraft had been repainted back with the Air New Zealand logo in preparation to return the aircraft after the test flight.

Flight History

This was a test flight that was conducted by both XL Airways Germany crew and Air New Zealand crew to certify the aircraft’s airworthiness as per an end of lease agreement. This was an aircraft that was owned by Air New Zealand but that had been leased out to XL Airways Germany. After the test flight the aircraft was going to be returned to Air New Zealand to resume operation under its original registration of ZK-OJL. This flight was conducted on the 27th of November 2008. This flight was conducted at heights of just 3,000feet and low altitude. They are various activities that lead to this accident which this article addresses.

To begin with inaccurate maintenance procedures, which allowed for water to enter into the Angle of Attack (AOA) Sensors three days before the flight when it was washed. During the flight the water which was in the 1st and 2nd Sensor froze and made the sensors inoperative. These sensors contribute to the data of the A320’s "fly-by-wire" system - a computer-controlled electronic interface that replaces manual piloting2. In the conduction of the test flight the crew carried out a test on the AOA Sensors but they were unaware that they were blocked. The crew disregarded the speed limits required for the test flight they were carrying out. The non functioning AOA Sensors, low speeds and low altitude lead to the aircraft stalling and plunging into the Mediterranean Sea killing all those on-board1 .

The A320 was only three years old and had only notched 7000 flying hours. This test flight was meant to be a 2hr 35 minute flight that was to be conducted by both Air New Zealand and XL Airways Germany crew. On board this flight was one Air New Zealand Pilot, three Air New Zealand engineers, a New Zealand Civil Aviation Authority officer and two German pilots2.

Probable cause of the accident given in the BEA (France's Bureau d'Enquetes et d'Analyses) Report

The loss of control of the aircraft by the crew who were carrying out improvised demonstrations of the AOA (Angle of Attack) protections1. The blocked sensors made it impossible for these protections to trigger during the test flight. The crew also failed to follow the speeds mentioned in the programme of checks they were carrying out3.

Factors that contributed to the accident

• Lack of protection of the AOA Sensors during the rinsing of the aircraft three days prior to the flight which lead to the present water in the sensors freezing in flight, leading to a malfunction of
the sensors3.

• Lack of proper regulatory framework in regards to non-revenue flights in the area of air traffic management.

• The crew used a flight programme that was developed and designed for crew trained at performing the type of flight tests they were performing, however this crew performed some tests
without knowing the aim as they were not trained at performing such test flights3.

• Decision of the crew to carry out this test flight at low altitude and low speeds.

• The crew’s general workload in flight was increased as they had to carry out the normal in-flight checks along with the programme
of in-flight checks that was added in order to test the aircraft's airworthiness3.

Human Factors Analysis & Classification

Unsafe Supervision: Planned Inappropriate Operations; Flying below the required altitude and at low speeds.

Unsafe Acts: Routine Violations; The crew did not follow the required procedure of getting clearance from the air traffic control management for the type of test flight they wanted to carry out. During the cleaning of the aircraft with water three days before the test flight as per procedure the AOA Sensors were not properly protected as per the directions in the aircraft’s maintenance manual.

Unsafe Acts: Errors; Skill-based errors: The pilot did not scan all the required instruments and thus failed to realize that the AOA Sensors were malfunctioned.

Preconditions for Unsafe Acts: Conditions of the operator; Adverse Mental State.
The crew had an increased workload for which they were not properly trained for. Mental fatigue was raised in the BEA Report 1 as a factor that may have contributed to the pilot not noticing the AOA Sensor malfunction.

Preconditions for Unsafe Acts: Personnel Factors; Communication and Coordination. This test flight had three pilots onboard, three engineers and a New Zealand Civil Aviation Authority representative. Proper communication, team work and coordination would have facilitated a safer cockpit where the pilots were more aware of all the systems performance.


1.BEA.(2008).Accident on approach to Perpignan. Retrieved 21 September, 2010, from http://www.bea.aero/en/enquetes/perpignan/perpignan.php

2. Field,C.( 2010). A mystery resolved: Last flight of doomed Airbus. Retrieved 22
September, 2010, from, http://www.nzherald.co.nz/air-accidents/news/article.cfm?c_id=665&objectid=10674197

3.Aviation Safety Network.(1996). Accident description. Retrieved 22 September, 2010, from http://aviation-safety.net/database/record.php?id=20081127-0

Want to know more?

Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/XL_Airways_Germany_A320_Flight_888T

Human Factors Analysis: http://aviationknowledge.wikidot.com/aviation:hfacs

Divers seek answers to Air NZ crash: http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/739619

Coincidence Fact

This accident occurred exactly 29 years after an Air New Zealand DC-10 impacted Mount Erebus in the Antarctica on November 28th 1979.

Contributors to this page

Melanie AttanMelanie Attan

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