Exactly 14 years ago today, on August 20, 2008, Spanair Flight 5022 crashed, killing 152 passengers and crew. The aircraft involved in the accident was a 14-year-old McDonnell Douglas MD-82 with the registration number EC-HFP.
Spanair Flight 5022 was a regularly scheduled service between Josep Tarradellas Barcelona–El Prat Airport (BCN) and Gran Canaria Airport (LPA) with a stop at Adolfo Suárez Madrid–Barajas Airport (MAD). Onboard the plane were 172 passengers and crew.
The aircraft needed maintenance in Madrid
After an uneventful first leg between Barcelona and the Spanish capital, the aircraft piloted by 39-year-old Captain Antonio Garcia Luna and 31-year-old first officer Francisco Javier Mulet was authorized by controllers in Madrid to start its engines at 13:06. The plane then taxied from stand T21 at Terminal 2 to runway 36L.
BriYYZ via Flickr.
Once at the runway threshold, the flaps were extended in preparation for takeoff. After having already been cleared for takeoff, the crew radioed the tower at 13:26 to say they had a problem and were returning to the stand. The nature of the problem was an overheating Ram Air Temperature (RAT) probe.
Once back in the parking area of Terminal 2, the crew turned off the engines and requested maintenance engineers to address the problem. Mechanics confirmed an issue with the RAT probe heating section and set about rectifying the problem.
After being repaired the plane taxied out to the runway
After dealing with the issue, the aircraft was topped up with 1,080 liters of aviation fuel and once again cleared for startup and to taxi out to runway 36L. As the crew prepared for the takeoff, the cockpit voice recorder captured the crew going through their final checks. At 14:23, the plane was at the end of the runway, ready for takeoff, with the tower confirming that the wind was from 210° at 5 knots.
At 14:23, the brakes were released, and the aircraft started its takeoff roll. At 14:24 the plane was at V1 with a calibrated speed of 147 knots. As the nose gear left the ground, the stall warning shaker activated, and on three occasions, the horn and voice recording warned of a stall.
While briefly airborne, the plane rolled to the right before impacting with the ground next to the runway. Both wings separated from the aircraft as the fuselage broke into two before being engulfed by flames. Of the 172 passengers and crew, 152 died, including both pilots, leaving just 18 survivors.
The investigation into the crash
The Civil Aviation Accident and Incident Investigation Commission (CIAIAC) and representatives from the US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) along with Boeing and Pratt & Whitney conducted the investigation.
The investigation concluded that the crew had not configured the aircraft flaps for takeoff. The wings could not generate enough lift without the flaps to keep the aircraft airborne. This caused the pilots to lose control of the plane and crash. The investigation published the following as the cause of the accident:
- The pilots failed to deploy the flaps in the after start checklist
- The pilots failed to cross-check the position of the flaps lever.
- They failed to check the position of the flaps during the taxi checklist.
The Civil Aviation Accident and Incident Investigation Commission identified the following contributing factors:
- The absence of an improper takeoff configuration warning resulting from the failure of the takeoff warning system to operate.
- The crew’s failure when deviating from procedures following unscheduled interruptions to flight preparations.