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In general aviation, a common reason for fatalities is low altitude stalls on takeoff or practising go-arounds.

Has there ever been an incident where a commercial jet airliner stalled on takeoff / at low-altitude?

(Excluding the one where the tank wasn't secured, pretty sure that wasn't commercial anyway. Also excluding the MAX 8 incidents).

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  • $\begingroup$ Not an answer because I don't know if it was definitely a stall, but possibly Bek F100 at Almaty on Dec 27th 2019 avherald.com/h?article=4d127dc6&opt=0 $\endgroup$ – Dave Gremlin Jan 2 at 17:34
  • $\begingroup$ @DaveGremlin, basically all icing accidents as well as the loss-of-control-in-engine-out-situation (mostly turboprops) end up as stalls. However in these cases stall is not the primary cause, but a result of other condition causing loss of control. For accidents where pilots not recognizing or handling stall the West Caribbean 708 comes to mind, but that was in cruise, so it does not satisfy the criteria of the question. I am sure there are others that do, but I can't remember any specific from top of my head. $\endgroup$ – Jan Hudec Jan 2 at 21:41
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    $\begingroup$ No reason to explicitly exclude the MAX incidents. They never stalled. $\endgroup$ – reirab Jan 3 at 7:49
  • $\begingroup$ "In general aviation, a common reason for fatalities is low altitude stalls on takeoff or practising go-arounds." That is not correct. Most stalls are during the landing phase, when the pilot turns too steeply trying to line up with the runway. During takeoff, one has full power applied and is merely climbing straight out - and you have to pull the stick/yoke reeeeally far back to stall with full power - releasing the back pressure just a little bit will stop the stall from developing. There is the occasional crash during takeoff, typically associated with an engine problem. $\endgroup$ – CrossRoads Jan 3 at 18:19
  • $\begingroup$ @CrossRoads Thanks for the correction, appreciate it. Please feel free to edit the question if you like. $\endgroup$ – Cloud Jan 6 at 10:21
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There are two fairly recent airliner crashes I can think of that were the direct result of an aerodynamic stall, one is Air France 447 and the other is Colgan Air 3407.

AF447 was at cruise height when the incident began, so that one does not fit with your question.

Colgan3407 was landing, so was pretty much "low level" (Does "jet" permit a turboprop?).

Following the clearance for final approach, landing gear and flaps (5 degrees) were extended. The flight data recorder (FDR) indicated the airspeed had slowed to 145 knots (269 km/h).[3] The captain then called for the flaps to be increased to 15 degrees. The airspeed continued to slow to 135 knots (250 km/h). Six seconds later, the aircraft's stick shaker activated, warning of an impending stall as the speed continued to slow to 131 knots (243 km/h) [...]

In its final moments, the aircraft pitched up 31 degrees, then pitched down 25 degrees, then rolled left 46 degrees and snapped back to the right at 105 degrees. Occupants aboard experienced g-forces estimated at nearly 2 G's. The crew made no emergency declaration as they rapidly lost altitude and crashed into a private home at 6038 Long Street,[24] about 5 miles (8.0 km) from the end of the runway


Going back in time, we can probably find a few more - some of the older examples may stretch what you consider "commercial aviation" by todays standards, and some most certainly were not "Jet" engined, but for the sake of completeness here goes:

The flight was a scheduled domestic passenger flight from Croydon to Manchester. It was also reported to be carrying mail,[2] although this was later denied by the General Post Office.[3] While flying over Buckinghamshire, a storm was encountered. Witnesses stated that an engine stopped, but was then restarted. It appeared to them that an emergency landing was going to be made at Ford End, Ivinghoe when the aircraft dived to the ground and crashed at Ivinghoe

The aircraft took off from Croydon Airport on a scheduled international passenger flight to Le Bourget Airport, Paris. Witnesses described the aircraft as flying low over Purley before nosediving to the ground

American Airlines Flight 1, dubbed "the New Yorker",[1] was a regularly scheduled, multiple stop flight from La Guardia Airport to Chicago Municipal Airport. It had intermediate stops at Newark, New Jersey; Buffalo, New York; Detroit, Michigan; and South Bend, Indiana. On October 30, 1941, on the flight's leg between Buffalo and Detroit, the American Airlines Douglas DC-3-277B operating the route crashed into a wheat field approximately one half mile east of the town of Lawrence Station, Ontario

the Avro Tudor was approaching runway 28 of Llandow aerodrome at an abnormally low altitude with the undercarriage down. The pilot attempted to correct the descent by increasing the power of the engines and brought the plane up. The aircraft rose steeply to 100 m (300 ft) attaining a nose-up attitude of 35 degrees to the vertical, and then the aircraft stalled

The aircraft was de-iced before takeoff. In the cockpit, the check captain observing the trainee's performance sat on the right; the trainee sat on the left. The captain and first officer remained in the cabin and did not assist the trainee and check captain during takeoff. Flight 513 took off from the runway at a bearing of 100°. At an altitude of 40–50 meters the angle of attack increased to the point of causing a stall. The Tu-124 never recovered from the stall and crashed into a field of snow

During the takeoff, the Lockheed L-1011's left elevator became stuck in a fully upwards position, leading to the aircraft pitching up aggressively and causing the aircraft to lose speed and nearly stall. The pitching force, unable to be overcome by fully pushing the control column down, was counteracted by reducing the thrust on the L-1011's wing engines but not the tail engine. The differential thrust pitched down the nose of the airliner and allowed the pilots to land the aircraft.

On 21 November 2004, just two minutes after take off, the Bombardier CRJ-200ER fell from the sky and crashed into a lake in Nanhai Park, next to the airport, killing all 53 people on board and 2 more on the ground. [...] An investigation by the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) revealed that the plane had not been de-iced by the ground crew while it was parked on the tarmac.

On approach to Varandey Airport, the crew allowed the An-24RV's speed to drop and its nose to rise until in stalled. At 13:53, the aircraft struck a hill, crashed about 5 kilometers (3.1 miles) from the airport, and burned, killing 28 people (two crew members and 26 passengers).

The aircraft, a Let L-410 Turbolet, had just taken off from El Embrujo Airport at 9:50, when the left engine flamed out. The crew continued with the takeoff, but the speed of the aircraft decreased rapidly. The aircraft then banked dangerously too far to the right and stalled. The aircraft crashed into a mangrove forest, located just 113 metres (371 ft) from the airport runway.

The crash was caused primarily by the aircraft's automated reaction, which was triggered by a faulty radio altimeter. This caused the autothrottle to decrease the engine power to idle during approach. The crew noticed this too late to take appropriate action to increase the thrust and recover the aircraft before it stalled and crashed.

Two minutes after takeoff, the pilots reported an engine flameout. Flight 235 climbed to a maximum height of 1,510 feet (460 m), then descended. The other engine, still working, was shut down mistakenly.[1][2] Immediately before crashing into the river, it banked sharply left and clipped a taxi travelling west on the Huandong Viaduct


So, yeah, quite a few actually!

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  • $\begingroup$ The Regional Airlines 9288 stands out as one where no other cause beyond pilots mishandling the plane was found. Another such might be Ethiopian 409 (though it took some time after take-off to the fatal mishandling). Yemenia 626 also comes close, though that had a bit of contribution from the system. $\endgroup$ – Jan Hudec Jan 2 at 22:15
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    $\begingroup$ The Delta 1080 crew "did well". $\endgroup$ – Russell McMahon Jan 3 at 8:36
  • $\begingroup$ @RussellMcMahon The TransAsia crew, not so much. $\endgroup$ – Eric Hauenstein Jan 3 at 13:57
  • $\begingroup$ Does BA flight 38 count? The pilots reported the stall alarm sounded right before the crash. $\endgroup$ – Dai Jan 3 at 14:06
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Two other catastrophic accidents during takeoff phase occurred on flight testing for transport category aircraft, though both of them are business jets:

1. Bombardier Challenger 604, 2000, Wichita

Aggressive takeoff rotation led to fuel migration and shifted the aircraft CG aft of the allowed limits. The combined effect of the large initial rate of rotation and the pitching moment from the rearward CG movement caused the aircraft to stall at low altitude, with insufficient altitude to recover. The right wing rolled and impacted the ground first and the aircraft exploded on impact.

2. Gulfstream G650, 2010, Roswell

The design target V2 speed for the G650 was erroneously calculated, which was lower than physically achievable. Furthermore, the engineering team overestimated the stall AOA of the aircraft in ground effect, resulting in lack of stall warning/crew awareness as the aircraft approaches stall in ground effect. In an effort to achieve the target V2 in one-engine-inoperative flight tests, increasingly aggressive rotation technique was used, the last of which resulted in a stall at low altitude, with insufficient altitude to recover. The right wingtip contacted the runway; the aircraft departed the runway, impacted a structure and burst into flame.

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Several examples on Skybrary

One of the most notorious cases is arguably Northwest's MD-82

On 16 August 1987, an MD-82 being operated by Northwest Airlines on a scheduled passenger flight from Detroit MI to Phoenix AZ failed to get properly airborne in day VMC and, after damaging impact with obstacles within the airport perimeter after climbing to a maximum height of just under 40 ft, impacted the ground causing the destruction of the aircraft by impact forces and a subsequent fire. All but one of the 157 occupants were killed with the single survivor suffering serious injury. On the ground, 2 people were killed, 2 more seriously injured and 4 more suffered minor injury with several buildings vehicles and structures damaged or destroyed.

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There are a couple I can think of off-hand from the last couple of decades (in addition to the ones already listed in other answers):

1. National Airlines Flight 102

I suppose whether this one counts depends on exactly what definition of "airliner" you're using. Certainly, the 747-400 is normally considered an airliner, though this was its cargo variant. I would consider it an airliner, but not a passenger airliner.

At any rate, this flight in April 2013 crashed shortly after departure from Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan. At least one armored vehicle in the cargo deck was improperly restrained, broke free, and fell against the aft bulkhead very shortly after takeoff. This moved the CoG aft and also damaged flight controls. As a result, the aircraft pitched up into an unrecoverable stall at low altitude and crashed shortly after takeoff.

2. Air Midwest Flight 5481 / U.S. Airways Express 5481

This was was a 19-seater turboprop operated by Air Midwest for U.S. Airways Express. In this incident in January 2003, the NTSB found that the aircraft had been loaded 580 pounds above its maximum take-off weight and that its center of gravity was 5% aft of its allowable limit. The NTSB determined that this was due to both the passengers and their luggage being heavier than the average values that the FAA allowed the airline to use for computing weight and balance.

Additionally, improper maintenance had been performed on the aircraft that resulted in the elevator authority being significantly reduced. The combination of these two issues led to the aircraft becoming uncontrollable immediately upon takeoff. It rapidly pitched up, eventually reaching 54 degrees nose-up attitude. After a rapid climb, the aircraft entered an unrecoverable stall and crashed into a maintenance hangar approximately 35 seconds after lifting off of the runway.

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Sounds similar to the De Havilland Comet 1's other problem.

On 26 October 1952, the Comet suffered its first hull loss when a BOAC flight departing Rome's Ciampino airport failed to become airborne and ran into rough ground at the end of the runway.

...

Both early accidents were originally attributed to pilot error, as over-rotation had led to a loss of lift from the leading edge of the aircraft's wings. It was later determined that the Comet's wing profile experienced a loss of lift at a high angle of attack, and its engine inlets also suffered a lack of pressure recovery in the same conditions. [quote from Wiki link above]

If the wheels never actually left the ground, this wouldn't count as "low altitude", however it looks like the correct conditions for a stall even if no loss of altitude was physically possible.

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  • $\begingroup$ One of the lucky ones :-( $\endgroup$ – Russell McMahon Jan 4 at 9:33
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The 1972 crash of BEA flight 548 in Staines, near Heathrow Airport, London, was, and remains, the most lethal flying accident (excluding terrorism) in the UK. It was a significant incident with respect to raising issues of crisis management in the cockpit, and in bringing about the use of cockpit voice recorders. The proximate cause was a decrease in the airspeed after the premature retraction of the leading-edge droops, but in addition, during the enquiry, there was considerable dispute over the proposition that the Captain could have been undergoing an acute coronary or arterial condition (frequently, but somewhat inaccurately, described as a 'heart attack') at the time of the crash.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_European_Airways_Flight_548

Another significant British case, though not initiated at low altitude, was that of the first prototype BAC One-Eleven, which entered an irrecoverable deep stall while undergoing stall testing. This brought to the forefront concerns about the propensity for this scenario in rear-engined, T-tailed jets, and led to the installation of stick-pushers on this and similar aircraft.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1963_BAC_One-Eleven_test_crash

A similar crash, involving a Hawker-Siddeley Trident (the same type as in the Staines crash), occured during a post-manufacture certification test flight, while the stick shaker and pusher were disabled.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1966_Felthorpe_Trident_crash

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