Re: Accidents caused by cigarette smoking

Date:         06 Aug 98 23:22:52 
From:         Stephan Stephany <>
Organization: INPE
References:   1
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Peter Stanning wrote:
> The CAA were quoted in yesterdays Daily Telegraph as saying that no
> aircraft accident had ever been caused by cigarette smoking seem to
> remember a 707 crash in France caused by a fire in a toilet.This was
> some years ago now but I thought the fire was caused by a cigarette.

You can find a more comprehensive report in:

- choose 1973;
- search for RG820 (flight number);

11.07.73 (14.03) Boeing 707-345C PP-VJZ (19841/683) Varig

occupants : 17 crew + 117 passengers = 134.
fatalities: 7 crew + 116 passengers = 123.
location: Paris; nr (France)
nature: Scheduled Passenger phase: Final Approach
flight: RG820 Rio de Janeiro-Galeao IAP - Paris-Orly

Varig Flight 820 departed Rio de Janeiro at 03.03h for a flight to
Paris. At 13.57h the aircraft had already descended to FL080 and
contacted Orly approach, who told the crew to maintain FL080 and head
to the OLS VOR which would take the aircraft to the downwind leg of
Runway 26. At 13.58:20h the flight crew contacted Orly approach and
reported a "problem with fire on board".

An emergency descent was requested. At 13.59 clearance was given to
descend to 3000ft for a Runway 07 landing, making a straight-in
approach possible. While the situation on board was getting worse
(smoke entering the cockpit and passengers becoming asphyxiated), a
clearance to descend to 2000ft was given at 14.01:10h. The flight crew
put on oxygen masks as smoke was making it impossible to read the
instruments. At 14.03 the pilot decided to make an emergency landing
5km short of the runway with gear down and flaps at 80deg. The Boeing
approached with considerable nose-up attitude, in a slight left
bank. The aircraft truncated some small trees and made a heavy landing
on a field. Both main gears collapsed and the engines were torn off in
the subsequent skid. The fuselage however, remained intact. Ten
occupants (all crew members) evacuated the aircraft. By the time the
firemen arrived (6-7 minutes later) the fire had burned through the
roof and there was no sign of life. Of the four unconscious occupants
the firemen could evacuate, only one survived.

PROBABLE CAUSE: "A fire which appears to have started in the washbasin
unit of the aft right toilet. It was detected because smoke had
entered the adjacent left toilet. The fire may have been started by an
electrical fault or by the carelessness of a passenger. The difficulty
in locating the fire made the actions of cabin personnel
ineffective. The flight crew did not have the facilities to intervene
usefully from the cockpit against the spread of the fire and the
invasion of smoke. The lack of visibility in the cockpit prompted the
crew to decided on a forced landing. At the time of touch-down the
fire was confined to the area of the aft toilets. The occupants of the
passenger cabin were poisoned, to varying degrees by carbon monoxide
and other combustion products."

Source: 'Varig 707 had a toilet fire', Flight International 17.04.1976

Dr. Stephan Stephany
LAC  - Computing and Applied Mathematics Laboratory
INPE - Brazilian Institute for Space Research