A320 Warsaw crash: 2 dead

From:         Pete Mellor <pm@csr.city.ac.uk>
Date:         21 Sep 93 22:47:52 PDT
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[ This was posted the day after the crash, but I waited, hoping there
  would be more complete information and also trying to discourage a
  frenzy of speculation in the group based on misinformation.  This is
  still about the best report I've seen, however, so here's Peter's
  report on the crash.  The most noteworthy update is that the flight
  recorders have been recovered intact, and, strangely, sent to the
  *French* authorities for analysis.  -- Karl ]

The following is the best information that I could glean from reports on 
last night's late evening TV news, and in The Guardian and The Independent 
newspapers this morning. (The Independent carried a front-page picture and 
a fairly long report on p12. The Guardian carried a picture and short report 
on p8. The Times also carried a very short front page report. No other papers 
carried it on the front page and I did not check their inside coverage.) 


Date and time: Tuesday 14th Sep. 1993, 17.30 local time approx. 

Place: Okecie airport, Warsaw 

Carrier: Lufthansa 

Flight: Scheduled flight LH2904 Frankfurt to Warsaw 

Aircraft type: Airbus A-320 

Weather conditions: Violent storm. Heavy rain (described as an "incredible 
downpour") and strong winds. 

Complement: 64 passengers, 6 crew 

Casualties: 2 dead (1 flight crew, 1 passenger), 54 injured (taken to 
hospital). 

Note that reports are confused. Some early reports gave 40 or 70 dead. The 
TV news bulletin stated no dead, but many injured. The Independent gives 2 dead 
and 54 injured. The Guardian gives 2 dead and 68 injured but states that some 
had already been discharged from hospital (citing Maciej Kalita, airport 
director, as their source). 

Material damage: Aircraft totally destroyed. 

Course of events: The aircraft made an apparently normal touch-down. Instead 
of braking, it accelerated, rolled to the end of the runway and struck some 
kind of barrier (variously stated to be a "buffer" or "embankment"). It 
surmounted the barrier, struck the ground with a nose-down attitude, and 
broke up. An engine caught fire. The fire spread, and destroyed the entire 
aircraft apart from the tail section and the pilots' cabin. Passengers 
escaped through the emergency exits. (One report states that the rear exits 
were used, since the middle section was damaged.) Fire crews and ambulances 
reached the scene from the centre of Warsaw in 20 minutes. The emergency 
services were described in The Independent as responding quickly. (Presumably 
these were services located at the airport, which was described as "recently 
modernised".) 


Pictorial evidence: 

The picture in The Independent is taken from the left of the fuselage, and 
shows the front section. The pilot's cabin is structurally intact, and the 
windscreen is unbroken, although it appears to be blackened by smoke. The 
front door is open, and one fireman is standing inside the fuselage, training 
a hose towards the flight deck. From a point immediately behind the door, the 
roof and walls of the passenger cabin are totally destroyed, and the jagged 
remains of the walls and some of the window apertures can be seen. The 
interior of the passenger cabin is shrouded in white smoke. Onlookers can 
be seen standing on a high embankment on the right of the fuselage, looking 
down at the wreckage. The nose-cone is not in shot. 

The picture in The Guardian is taken from the front of the fuselage, looking 
at the pilots' cabin. Again, it is clear that this is intact, and no 
windscreens are broken. The cabin roof is partly blackened. The right 
windscreen wiper is in a near-vertical position, and the left is slightly 
raised, indicating that these were in use on impact. The belly of the fusalage 
is on the ground. The fuselage is tilted slightly to the left. The right 
wing and engine are still attached and appear undamaged, with no evidence 
of being affected by fire. (It would therefore appear to be the left engine 
that caught fire, but this is not in shot, and in any case the right of 
the picture is blocked by the figures of the firemen.) One spoiler (no. 2?) 
is raised on the wing. The nose-cone appears to be missing. An embankment 
slightly higher than the cabin roof is visible to the right and slightly to 
the rear of the fuselage, with firemen scrambling on it. The fuselage to the 
rear of the pilots' cabin is obscured by white smoke. 


Witnesses' reports: One passenger, Marcin Bronowski, stated: "It happened in a 
fraction of a second after landing. There was even hand-clapping after the 
landing. Then the 'plane started accelerating again. Rather than braking, it 
tried to take off, but it ran out of runway and the 'plane broke into pieces." 

The Independent cites Lufthansa's manager in Warsaw, Hans Blum, as saying 
there was an "explosion". The Guardian cites Lufthansa's regional director 
for Eastern Europe, Hans-Willy Blum, as saying "As far as we know, there was 
no explosion.") 


Miscellaneous information: The last accident to a Lufthansa aircraft was in 
1979, when a cargo 'plane crashed near Rio de Janeiro, killing 3 crew. 

Franz Bertele, the German ambassador to Warsaw, was on board, but survived. 

David Learmount was interviewed for the TV news bulletin, and stated that 
the accident could not be attributed to the aircraft systems. He also stated 
that, according to witnesses, the aircraft appeared to "aqua-plane" after 
touch-down. (This does not explain the *acceleration*, however, since the 
ground spoilers and thrust reversers should have had a braking effect.) 

When I telephoned the BBC news desk last night to see if they required any 
information, I was told that, since latest reports indicated no deaths, the 
accident would receive little coverage. As the woman on the desk said: 
"No bodies, no story!". :-) 

Peter Mellor, Centre for Software Reliability, City University, Northampton 
Sq., London EC1V 0HB, Tel: +44(0)71-477-8422, JANET: p.mellor@csr.city.ac.uk 
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