Afriqiyah Airways Flight 771 crash

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Afriqiyah Airways Flight 771 was a scheduled international passenger flight that crashed on 12 May 2010 at about 06:01 local time (04:01 UTC) on approach to Tripoli International Airport. Of the 104 passengers and crew on board, the sole survivor was 9-year-old Dutch boy Ruben van Assouw. The crash of Flight 771 was the third hull-loss of an Airbus A330 involving fatalities, happening eleven months after the second one came with the crash of Air France Flight 447.


The aircraft was an Airbus A330-200, registration 5A-ONG, manufactured in 2009, manufacturer's serial number (MSN) 1024. It was delivered in September 2009 and at the time of the accident it had approximately 1,600 hours total flying time and about 420 take-off and landing cycles. The aircraft was powered by two General Electric CF6-80E1 engines. It was configured for a capacity of 253 passengers. This particular flight carried 93 passengers and 11 crew. Most of the passengers were Dutch citizens returning from holiday in South Africa. An airport official stated that 13 Libyans, both passengers and crew, as well 70 Dutch nationals had lost their lives in the crash.


The flight originated at OR Tambo International Airport, serving Johannesburg, South Africa. Its destination was Tripoli International Airport, Libya. During the final approach and up to the moment of the accident the pilot had not reported any problems to the control tower. The aircraft crashed about 1,200 metres (1,300 yd) short of Runway 09, outside the airport perimeter. The aircraft was destroyed by the impact and post-crash fire. The METAR in force at the time of the crash was HLLT 120350Z VRB01KT 6000 NSC 19/17 Q1008. The main runway of the airport is 3,600 metres (11,800 ft) long. Libyan Transport Minister Mohammed Ali Zidan ruled out terrorism as a cause. During the incident, the aircraft damaged a house on the ground. The homeowner, his wife, and their five children escaped unharmed. The house and a nearby mosque are scheduled to be demolished as part of the airport expansion plans. The first body of a non-Libyan passenger was repatriated to the Netherlands on 27 May 2010. On 21 June 2010 the Libyan authorities began clearing the accident site of Afriqiyah 771.

The accident is the second deadliest involving an Airbus A330 (after Air France Flight 447), and the second deadliest accident to have happened in Libya. It was the first hull-loss accident for Afriqiyah Airways.


The Libyan Civil Aviation Authority (LYCAA) opened an investigation into the accident. Airbus stated that it would provide full technical assistance to the authorities investigating the crash, and would do so via the French Bureau d'Enquêtes et d'Analyses pour la Sécurité de l'Aviation Civile (BEA). The South African Civil Aviation Authority sent a team to assist with the investigation. The BEA assisted in the investigation with an initial team of two investigators, accompanied by five advisors from Airbus. The Dutch Safety Board (Onderzoeksraad voor de Veiligheid "Research Council for Safety") sent an observer. The flight recorders were recovered and sent to Paris for analysis soon after the incident.

Authorities reviewed the recordings made by the Flight Data Recorder In August 2010, it was reported that preliminary investigations were complete. There was no evidence of any technical problems nor was there any fuel shortage. No technical or medical problems had been reported by the crew and they had not requested any assistance. Due to the 2011 Libyan civil war, the investigation was being hampered, with the Nederlandse Omroep Stichting unable to get any response from the LYCAA. The data from the Cockpit Voice Recorder and Flight Data Recorder had been extracted, and the results given to the LYCAA.

On 28 February 2013, the Libyan Civil Aviation Authority announced that they had determined that the cause of the crash was pilot error. Crew resource management lacked/was insufficient, sensory illusions and the first officer inputs to the aircraft side stick were a contributing factor in the crash. Also fatigue could have played a role in the accident.

Accident description

The flight crew did not acquire any visual ground references before the approach was started. The aircraft started its final descent for landing too early. The aircraft had descended to 280 feet above ground when the Terrain awareness and warning system sounded in the cockpit. The captain ordered a go-around and the autopilot was turned off. The first officer put the nose of the aircraft up for 4 seconds and the thrust levers were set to go-around power. The aircraft pitched up to 12.3° nose up and the flight crew raised the landing gear and flaps. Shortly thereafter the co-pilot started making nose down inputs which caused the aircraft to pitch-attitude to reduce to 3.5° nose down. (The co-pilot could have been focused on the aircraft's speed, rather than its attitude.) The go-around pitch attitude was not maintained and the instructions from the flight director were not followed. (The report says that fatigue could have played a role in causing the first officer to focus solely on the airspeed.) The captain and the first officer were making inputs to the aircraft's side stick at the same time (although the dual inputs were not sufficient to trigger a dual-input warning). This action appears to be intended to provide assistance by the captain to fly the aircraft. This action led to confusion on who was flying the aircraft. The Ground proximity warning system sounded as the aircraft lost more height and the co-pilot responded with a sharp nose-down input. Then the captain took control of the aircraft without warning, via the side stick priority button and maintained the nose-down input, while the first officer was simultaneously pulling back on his own side stick. Two seconds before impact with the ground the aircraft was at 180 feet. The captain was also pulling his side stick fully back, suggesting both pilots were aware of the aircraft's impending collision with the ground.


Afriqiyah Airways issued a statement saying that relatives of the victims who wished to visit Libya would be transported and accommodated at Afriqiyah's expense. The Libyan authorities relaxed certain passport restrictions and guaranteed the granting of visas. By 15 May 2010 the airline opened the Family Assistance Centre in a hotel in Tripoli to care for family members and relatives of crash victims who were visiting Libya. The executive team of Afriqiyah, including the CEO and the chairperson of the board, met family members at the hotel. Some family members wanted to visit the crash site; they travelled to the site and placed flowers there. The airline permanently retired the flight number 771 and it has been re-designated to 788 for Tripoli to Johannesburg and 789 for the return flight.

Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands expressed her shock at hearing the news. The President of South Africa, Jacob Zuma, also offered his condolences.

Passengers and crew

The passengers aboard Flight 771 were of various nationalities. All of the eleven crew members were Libyans. One passenger held dual citizenship. The following list reflects the airline's passenger nationality count of the victims. The airline released the manifest on the morning of 15 May 2010; the airline sent the list to several related embassies.

The sole survivor was 9-year-old Ruben van Assouw, a resident of the Dutch city of Tilburg, who was returning from a safari with his parents and brother. Van Assouw was taken to Sabia'a Hospital, 30 kilometres (19 mi) south-east of Tripoli and later transferred to Al-Khadhra Hospital, Tripoli, to undergo surgery for multiple fractures in both legs. Dutch Foreign Ministry spokesman Ad Meijer said the child has no life-threatening injuries. Saif al-Islam Gaddafi and Captain Sabri Shadi, the head of Afriqiyah Airways, visited Van Assouw while he was hospitalised in Libya. On 15 May, he was transferred by air ambulance to Eindhoven in the Netherlands. Van Assouw was accompanied on the flight by his aunt and uncle.

Of the passengers, 42 were continuing to Düsseldorf, 32 were continuing to Brussels, seven to London, and one to Paris. Eleven of the passengers had Libya as their final destination. Of the 71 passengers identified as Dutch by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 38 were travelling with the Stip travel agency, 24 were travelling with the Kras travel agency, and 9, including the survivor, had their tickets booked independently.

Among the victims were Frans Dreyer, brother of South African Member of Parliament Anchen Dreyer. and his friend and colleague, Anton Matthee. On the evening of 12 May 2010, the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs confirmed that one of its passport holders was on the plane, novelist Bree O'Mara. One of the Dutch victims was Joëlle van Noppen, singer in the former Dutch girl group WOW!.

The flight deck members were identified as Captain Yousef Bashir Al-Saadi (Arabic: يوسف بشير الساعدي‎), Co-pilot Tareq Mousa Abu Al-Chaouachi (Arabic: طارق موسي أبو الشواشي‎), and Co-pilot Nazim Al-Mabruk Al-Tarhuni (Arabic: ناظم المبروك الترهوني‎).


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