TAME Flight 120: crash into the Cumbal Volcano

Chain of events

  • On 28th of January 2002, TAME Flight 120 took off at 1003 hours from Matsical Sucre Aiport (Wikipedia, 2012). The flight was bound for Alfonso Bonilla Aragón International Airport (Wikipedia, 2012). There were 87 passengers and 7 crew on board the Boeing 727-100 – registered as HC-BLF and named El Oro (Wikipedia, 2012).
  • At 1015 hours El Oro contacted Tulcan control tower. The air traffic controller approved the 14, 000 feet descend, informed the crew regarding the weather conditions and cleared HC-BLF for the approach. The pilot had to make a Non-direction Beacon (NDB) approach (Wikipedia, 2012). A NDB is a navigation aid that does not provide the exact direction due to interference with other devices hence it is less commonly used (Ayers, 2001). By making the NDB approach to runway 23, the aeroplane would fly straight over Teniente Coronel Luis A. Mantilla Airport, at 085 degrees; next the aeroplane would turn left to heading 233 at an indicated airspeed of 180 knots, simultaneously descending to 11, 500 feet (Wikipedia, 2012). Flight 120 was flying around mountainous train, a major hazard being the Cumbal Volcano.
  • DC-BLF made a southwest approach, heading a little west of the original flight plan. The pilot was flying at 230 knots, much faster than he/she was supposed to (Wikipedia, 2012). The aircraft had majorly deviated from its flight path and was now heading towards its ill fate.
  • At 1023 hours, Flight 120 crashed into the side of the Cumbal Volcano in Colombia (Wikipedia, 2012). The weather conditions at the time of accident were poor. Everyone on board the Boeing 727-100 died in the accident (Wikipedia, 2012). The remains of the aircraft were found a day later (Wikipedia, 2012).

The wreckage of Flight 120. Image embedded from AirDisaster.Com on 18 September 2012

What went wrong?

  • Special Administrative Unit of Civil Aeronautics conducted the investigation and found the likely causes for the accident to be, the fact that the pilot made the decision to continue flying to Tulcan Aiport when the meteorological proved to be unsafe. (Wikipedia, 2012).
  • Another contributing factor is that the pilot in command did not use his/her navigation skills accurately which caused the aircraft to deviate from its flight path (Wikipedia, 2012).
  • Also the pilot went beyond the speed that he/she was advised to fly at (flying at 230 knots when was suppose to fly at 180 knots). The bank angle was also very small (15 degrees) it would have been more appropriate for the pilot to increase the bank angle to 25 or 30 degrees (Wikipedia, 2012).

All of these events combined to result in the catastrophe. According to the Aviation Safety Network (2012), this accident was the 21st worst accident at that time and is currently the 22nd worst accident.

The accident from a human factors perspective

This accident occurred due to pilot error and Control Flight into Terrain (CFIT) (Wikipedia, 2012). The pilot made the wrong decisions as mentioned above, which put the aircraft in an unsafe state and ultimately led to the accident. To help overcome the barriers of decision make an effective model is the DECIDE model. As identified by Experimental Aircraft Info (2012), it stands for the following:

Detect – that there has been some alteration
Estimate – be aware of the issue
Choose – an effective and efficient outcome
Identify – actions to keep the situation under control
Do – implement the chosen action
Evaluate – result of the action on the change

Decision making is a key aspect of flying. It is important that pilots make accurate decisions as one wrong decision can initiate a road to disaster. By using a decision making model as shown above, future accidents such as the TAME Flight 120 can be prevented.

1. Aviation Safety Network. (2012). Accident description. Retrieved from http://aviation-safety.net/database/record.php?id=20020128-0
2. Ayers, A. (2001). NDB approach. Retrieved form http://www.altairva-fs.com/training/ava_training_ifr_ndb.htm
3. Experiment Aircraft Info. (2012). Aeronautical decision making. Retrieved from http://www.experimentalaircraft.info/articles/aviation-decision-making.php
4. Wikipedia. (2012). TAME Flight 120. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TAME_Flight_120

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