Report: Spatial disorientation caused Kenya Airways B737-800 loss of control accident

April 28, 2010

Flight profile of flight KQ507 after takeoff from Douala

The fatal accident involving a Boeing 737-800 operated by Kenya Airways in May 2007 was caused by spatial disorientation and a loss of control, according to the Cameroon Civil Aviation Authority (CCAA) investigation.
The airplane crashed at night shortly after takeoff from Douala Airport (DLA), Cameroon, killing all 114 on board.

The CCAA report indicated that there was lack of crew coordination as flight KQ507 climbed into the dark knight. There were no external visual references, yet no instrument scanning was done. At 1000 feet climbing, the pilot flying released the flight controls for 55 seconds without having engaged the autopilot. The bank angle of the airplane increased continuously by itself very slowly up to 34 degrees right and the captain appears unaware of the airplane’s changing attitude.

Just before the “Bank Angle” warning sounds, the captain grabbed the controls, appeared confused about the attitude of the airplane, and made corrections in an erratic manner increasing the bank angle to 50 degrees right.

At about 50 degrees bank angle, the AP is engaged and the inclination tends to stabilize; then movements of the flight controls by the pilot resume and the bank angle increases towards 70 degrees right. A prolonged right rudder input brought the bank angle to beyond 90 degrees. The airplane descended in a spiral dive and crashed into a magrove swamp.

PROBABLE CAUSE: “The airplane crashed after loss of control by the crew as a result of spatial disorientation (non recognized or subtle type transitioning to recognized spatial disorientation), after a long slow roll, during which no instrument scanning was done, and in the absence of external visual references in a dark night.
Inadequate operational control, lack of crew coordination, coupled with the non-adherence to procedures of flight monitoring, confusion in the utilization of the AP, have also contributed to cause this situation.”


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