“That’s it. I’m dead.”
These were the chilling last words from the cockpit picked up by the black box recorder of Surinam Airways Flight 764 moments before the DC-8 crashed
Surinam Airways Flight 764 was an international scheduled passenger flight from Amsterdam Airport Schipol in the Netherlands to Paramaribo-Zanderij International Airport in Suriname operated by a Doucglas DC-8-62 with registration N1809E named “Anthony Nesty” after Suriname’s Olympic champion swimmer. On Wednesday 7 June 1989 the flight crashed during approach to Paramaribo-Zanderij, killing 176 of the 187 on board. It is the deadliest aviation disaster in Suriname’s history and the fifth-deadliest involving a DC-8 behind Icelandic Airlines Flight 001, Martinair Flight 138, Arrow Air Flight 1285, and Nigeria Airways Flight 2120.
Surinam Airways (SLM) carried out regular flights between Amsterdam-Schiphol Airport (AMS) and Paramaribo (PBM) using DC-8-60 planes. One of these a US-registered plane, N1809E, named “Anthony Nesty”. The aircraft was a four-engined McDonnell Douglas DC-8-62 passenger jet which had first flown in 1969 as part of the air fleet of Braniff International Airways.
The air crew was furnished by Air Crew International (ACI). The contract between Surinam Airways and ACI stipulated that ACI would furnish SLM with qualified crew members who held FAA certificates and who met the regulatory requirements to fly the DC-8. ACI did not provide for proficiency checks but left it to the individual pilots to meet the training and other requirements of their profession. One of the captains provided by ACI was involved in several incidents while operating on SLM flights. After investigation, SLM instructed ACI not to use this captain in future SLM assignments. However, he still acted as a crew member of several flights since.
The captain was again scheduled on the accident flight PY764. According to regulations, the captain was not even qualified to act as pilot-in-command of that flight because of his age. He was 66 years old and Suriname regulations stipulated that “the holder of a pilot certificate is not authorized to act as pilot during commercial flights when he/she has reached age 60”. Also, his most recent proficiency check flight was on a GA-7 Cougar twin instead of a DC-8.
Flight PY764 departed Amsterdam-Schiphol Airport at 23:25 (June 6) on a flight to Paramaribo (PBM). The en route part of the flight was uneventful and about 20 minutes before arrival in Paramaribo the crew received the 07:00 UTC weather for Zanderij Airport: Wind calm, visibility 900 m in fog, temperature/dewpoint 22°C/22°C. This caught the crew by surprise since the previous weather information had included a visibility of 6 km.
Zanderij Tower then cleared the flight for a VOR/DME (VHF omnidirectional range/Distance Measuring Equipment)approach to runway 10. The captain tuned in to the ILS and instructed the first officer to set the final approach course for the published VOR/DME approach on the first officer’s side.
Though the crew members knew that the ILS was not to be used for operational purposes and that they had been cleared for a VOR/DME approach, they still decided to execute an ILS/DME approach to runway 10. (ILS navigational equipment is normally more accurate than VOR/DME equipment, but in this case the ILS equipment at Zanderij airport, though transmitting signals, was not suitable nor available for operational use.)
The copilot said: “We don’t legally have an ILS … we have to use it“. The captain responded affirmatively. The crew were confident that they could land because they assumed that the fog was localized given the fact that they were able to see the airport during the descent.
During the approach the first officer reported that he could see the airport:”Runway’s at twelve o’clock“. A minute later he commented “A little bit of low fog comin’ up I reckon just a little bit“.
He was still able to see the runway and reported the runway in sight.
The DC-8 then entered some stratus clouds the captain told the first officer to “Tell him [fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][tower controller] to turn the runway lights up … Tell him to put the runway lights bright“.
The captain attempted to capture the unreliable ILS glide slope signal, but failed to capture it.
The Ground Proximity Warning System (GPWS) sounded several times: “Glideslope … glideslope…” until it was deactivated.
The captain was flying the aircraft below the minimum altitude for the ILS/DME approach procedure (260 ft asl) as well as below the minimum descent altitude for the VOR/DME approach procedure (560 ft). The first officer called out: “Two hundred feet“. Thirteen seconds later the no. 2 engine contacted a tree during a third landing attempt in fog. The right wing then struck another tree, about 25m above the ground, causing the aircraft to roll, striking the ground inverted. The airplane broke up and a fire erupted.
The crew descended below the published minimum altitude. Despite concerns about possible landing equipment failures the crew were determined to make a landing and not divert to another airport as they were running out of fuel. They could not get an ILS signal and ignored a Ground Proximity Warning System alarm 60 seconds prior to the crash by turning it off 10 seconds after it started its warning. Of the 9 crew and 178 passengers, none of the crew and only 11 passengers survived, leaving 176 dead.
Investigation revealed significant deficiencies in the crew’s training and judgement. They knowingly attempted to land using an inappropriate navigation signal and ignored alarms warning them of an impending crash. The safety issues stemming from the incident were of such concern that the United States National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) issued safety recommendations to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
Cockpit voice recorder transcript of the June 7, 1989 accident of Surinam Airways Flight 764, a Douglas DC-8 near Paramaribo (Surinam).
RT = Radio transmission, F/O
CAM 1 = Captain
CAM 2 = First Officer
CAM 3 = Flight Engineer
TWR = Paramaribo Tower
?? = unknown.
|CAM 1||Let me know when you radial’s alive here.|
|CAM 2||Okay it’s alive you just keep on coming around on the thirty degrees bank there you be alright.|
|CAM 2||Get in on up to thirty degrees.|
|CAM 3||Two thousand fast.|
|CAM 2||Two thousand, two thousand.|
|CAM 1||You mean I went through it so we’ll come back.|
|CAM 2||Just on the one oh three radial.|
|CAM 2||It’s a level out it’s about ten degrees to the right level out now you’ll be alright.|
|CAM 2||You’re on the one oh three now on the VOR.|
|CAM 3||Is it the one oh three inbound.|
|CAM 2||One oh three.|
|CAM 3||Or one oh four.|
|CAM 2||One oh three I’m sorry one oh four.|
|CAM 2||One oh four.|
|CAM 1||How far out are we.|
|CAM 2||We got.|
|CAM 1||How far out are we.|
|CAM 2||Let me get back on the DME.|
|CAM 2||Runway is twelve thirty.|
|[Sound of altitude alert]|
|CAM 1||Ah ??|
|CAM 1||I’m right on the localizer now.|
|CAM 2||Thirteen DME.|
|CAM 2||Runway’s twelve o’clock.|
|CAM 2||Twelve DME.|
|CAM 2||Ah I didn’t understand you.|
|TWR||Suriname seven six four wind is calm you’re cleared to land.|
|RT||Cleared to land seven six four.|
|CAM 2||On the localizer.|
|TWR||Do you have the runway lights in sight?|
|CAM 2||A little bit of low fog coming up I recon just a little bit.|
|CAM 2||Okay it’s down right right there, ah close to the runway.|
|CAM 2||I see it.|
|CAM 2||Glideslope’s alive.|
|CAM 1||Gear down.|
|[sound of landing gear being lowered]|
|CAM 1||?? can’t get that son of a ??|
|CAM 2||Can’t get it in there.|
|CAM 2||Oh well.|
|CAM 3||I see the altimeters are set, flaps and slats we’re working on.|
|CAM 2||Twenty three on the flap.|
|CAM 3||Gear is down and three green.|
|CAM 3||Spoiler lever is armed ignition is on.|
|CAM 3||Final flap setting to go, Wil.|
|CAM 1||Okay man.|
|CAM 2||Drifting slightly left.|
|CAM 2||That ILS is slightly off on that there indication.|
|[sound of trim in motion buzzer]|
|CAM 2||Slightly left of runway.|
|CAM 1||If I get a capture here I’ll be happy.|
|CAM 2||On glideslope just above.|
|CAM 1||I didn’t get no capture yet.|
|CAM 2||No I know it I don’t trust that ILS.|
|CAM 1||There it is.|
|CAM 2||I think you’re… according to that runway you look like you’re high.|
|CAM 1||Now it’s okay.|
|CAM 2||Slightly left of runway.|
|CAM 2||Five hundred feet.|
|CAM 1||Tell him to turn the runway lights up.|
|RT||Would you put the runway lights up please?|
|CAM 2||How’s that.|
|CAM 1||Tell ’em to put the runway lights bright.|
|RT||Please put the runway lights bright.|
|CAM 2||Three hundred feet.|
|CAM 2||Two hundred feet.|
|CAM 1||Okay MDA.|
|CAM 1||I’ll level it out here right here.|
|CAM 2||One fifty.|
|CAM 3||Pull up|
|[Sound of first impact]|
|[Sound of momentary power interruption to the CVR]|
|[Sound of stick shaker starts and continues until the end of the recording]|
|CAM 3||Pull up.|
|CAM 3||That’s it I’m dead.|
|[end of recording]|
CAUSE: “The Commission determined:
a) That as a result of the captain’s glaring carelessness and recklessness the aircraft was flown below the published minimum altitudes during the approach and consequently collided with a tree. b) As underlying factor in the accident was the failure of SLM’s operational management to observe the pertinent regulations as well as the procedures prescribed in the SLM Operations Manual concerning qualification and certification during recruitment and employment of the crew members furnished by ACI.”
The cause of the crash was a combination of pilot error and improper instrumental use by air traffic control. It subsequently arose that the captain of the flight, Will Rogers, had been previously suspended for landing on a wrong runway and that the papers of the crew for the flight were not in order.
On the 11th June 1989, a memorial service was held for the het kleurrijk elftal, which was attended by the players who had been left behind.
Darrell Lou-Hing is a retired pilot and avid aviation history buff
Darrell Lou-Hing on the web[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]