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

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.”

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

  1. martin says:

    Unbeleivable !! Waisted lives.

  2. The golden rule of flight is for the pilot to always fly the airplane first, worry about everything else later.

    Clearly this Captain and crew had no business in an airliner.

    JetAviator7 {John White]

    • martin says:

      I second that John. I mean who hired those guys anyway?

      • Aviator1086 says:

        That’s very true. I knew the captain of the flight. Hid kids and I grew up together and I called him uncle. My dad used to fly with him and before he found out the facts of this accident, these were his words ‘ Oh no, I saw this coming ever since we were in flight school.” He wasn’t a sharp pilot and his people skills were wanting. It was sad that my dad automatically suspected that the captain of the flight had something to do with it. I’m sure all the flight instructors at KQ knew. As for the first officer, he was too passive to be flying with such a captain. I fly, and personally, I would have taken control of that aircraft as soon as I saw the captain had no idea what he was doing, and made sure he never be at the controls of an airliner again by writing an in-depth report to adminstration and the KCAA. If you’re passive, you have no business in the flight deck. Even the most experienced professionals have flaws by virtue of being human.

  3. LXG says:

    Ladies & Gentlemen
    This is a typical case of substandard pilots thrown into airline industry. Training is also a decisive factor. training also includes checks such as LOPC’s and CRM.

    But this is Africa. Dangerous place for a pilot

  4. Maryke Van der Westhuizen says:

    I think to much blame was placed on the Pilot.Half of the plane that was left of it was looted by locals.My husband was on this plane and we had people talking to the locals that took away of what was left.No proper testing was done on any other instruments.Auto pilot per the report had to be fixed in February.This was a new plane.No one has tested the instrument or spoiler on the right of the plane.

  5. Tony Glazier says:

    Very unfortunately this is an example of Kenyan Airlines flying and crashing in an African country where looting the crash scene comes first and what little investigation their resources can muster comes later.

    Just last week we had an A300, which is another modern plane, crash in Libya with 103 people killed.

    I have had my own bad experiences with Kenyan Airlines. Its very frustrating that these third world airlines are able to offer flights alongside properly run airlines as if the quality and safety standards was the same.

    My friend recently was marooned on South Africa by Qatar Airways who refused to carry her on her booked ticket and would only offer her a seat 10 days later. They would not book her on any of the other seven airlines which had capacity.

    She had to spend £572 to buy a single ticket with SAA whose booking supervisor was so helpful indeed and ensured they gave her a seat on their flight two hours later. SAA deserve
    five stars for the help they gave her at Johannesberg.

    Qatar airways is a five star airline but gave her a zero star service and their staff were very rude as well !

  6. Ben Lawson says:

    This does look like some pretty dubious flying, but it is important to remember that disorientation mishaps can happen to anyone. It is also a good idea to read the full mishap report (if you can get it) before making judgments.

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