View Full Version : Airliner Crash kills 121 near Athens

15th Aug 2005, 05:59
GRAMMATIKO: A Cypriot airliner crashed into a mountainous area north of Athens last night (NZT) killing all 121 people on board after apparently suffering a loss of cabin pressure or oxygen.

"The pilot has turned blue," a passenger said in a mobile text message to his cousin, according to Greek television. "Cousin farewell, we're freezing."

Greek TV station Alpha said the pilot told air traffic controllers the Helios Airways Boeing 737 was experiencing air conditioning problems before communication with the plane flying at 35,000 feet en route from Larnaca in Cyprus to Prague via Athens was lost.

Rescue workers said they did not expect to find survivors.

A Greek police spokesman said there were 115 passengers and six crew on board the flight, of which 59 adults and eight children were heading to Athens and 48 to Prague.

Wreckage was scattered widely about the mountainous area, 40km north of Athens and dense black smoke billowed from several small fires. Only the tail section, bearing the Helios logo, was recognisable among the debris.

"I saw many bodies scattered around, all of them wearing (oxygen) masks," one witness said.

Police said 35 fire trucks, eight fire-fighting planes and three helicopters were at the scene, along with 105 special rescue operations officers.

There were chaotic scenes at Larnaca airport where desperate relatives demanded Helios release the passenger list for the plane. Some chanted: "Helios are murderers".

Akrivos Tsolaki, head of the accident investigation committee, told reporters at the crash site the plane's two black boxes voice and data recorders had been located.


Airport officials in Cyprus said flight HCY522 left Larnaca at 9am (local time) and lost contact at 10:30am.

AdvertisementAdvertisementTwo Greek F-16 fighter jets were scrambled after the plane lost contact with the tower at Athens international airport.

One of the F-16 pilots reported that he could not see the captain in the cockpit and his co-pilot appeared to be slumped in his seat, a Defence Ministry official said.

The ministry said it suspected the plane's oxygen supply or pressurisation system may have malfunctioned.

Greek Defence Ministry officials said 90 minutes elapsed between the alert first being raised at 10:30am and the plane crashing at 12:03 pm.

A source said the F-16 pilots were being flown to Defence Ministry headquarters for debriefing. "Their testimony is crucial for the continuation of the investigation. They are the ones with the last visuals of the plane."

A senior government official said there were no signs of foul play. "But we are still investigating all possible scenarios," he said.

The crash was the worst airline disaster in Greek history.

A Helios spokeswoman in Larnaca said: "We have no information about any problem with the AC (air conditioning) system. This plane received maintenance as usual and left Cyprus without any problems."

Kieran Daly, editor of Air Transport Intelligence, said the cause of the crash was a "puzzle".

"There are very good procedures in place for dealing with a lack of oxygen. There are so many warning systems, the crew should have been aware there was a problem," he said.

"The passenger commenting that it was cold suggests there was no air circulating in the cabin at all or the cockpit."

A spokesman for the European Aviation Safety Agency, Daniel Holtgen, based in Cologne, Germany, said: "It is highly unlikely that the loss of cabin pressure alone would cause such an incident. There would have to be other contributing factors."


Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis broke off his holiday on the Greek island of Tinos to return to Athens.

In Larnaca, Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos said: "I express my deepest sorrow and grief for the loss of lives of our compatriots and on behalf of the government I express deepest sympathy to all the relatives. We are standing by them and offering our support."

At the airport in Prague, where friends and relatives had been gathering to meet the flight, screens showing arrivals read simply "delayed".

Helios was Cyprus's first private carrier, established in 1999. It flies to Dublin, Sofia, Warsaw, Prague, Strasbourg and several British airports using a fleet of Boeing B737 aircraft.

There have been problems reported involving Helios planes in the past. In December 2004, three passengers were taken to hospital after the plane lost cabin pressure and made an emergency landing at Larnaca.

Libra Holidays Group, one of Britain's leading independent holiday tour operators, bought Helios in November 2004.

15th Aug 2005, 07:20
Good thing they had Locked and armoured cockpit doors! just incase there was a Pilot riding as pax on board!

My Condolences to all involved.

15th Aug 2005, 19:08

ATHENS - An airliner that crashed in Greece may have been a flying tomb when it plunged to Earth with some of the 121 people aboard already either dead or unconscious.

The crash, the worst air disaster in Greece, perplexed aviation experts, who are astounded by what appeared to have been a catastrophic failure of cabin pressure and/or oxygen supply at 35,000ft - nearly 10km up, higher than Mt Everest.

A top Greek Defence Ministry source said an autopsy on passengers "so far shows the bodies were frozen solid, including some whose skin was charred by flames from the crash".

Rescue workers recovered the pilot's body and found the plane's black box flight recorders, including the one that records pilot conversations. Investigators may focus on the last minutes of the Helios Airlines Boeing 737 flight which was declared "renegade" when it entered Greek air space and failed to make radio contact. Two F-16 Air Force jets were sent to investigate.

All 115 passengers and six crew died when the plane, with neither pilot in control, spiralled down in a death dive into a mountainous area about 40km north of Athens.

The plane was on a flight from Larnaca in Cyprus to Prague with a stop in Athens. Cypriot Transport Minister Haris Thrassou strongly denied some media reports that there were 48 children among the dead.

"There were between 15 and 20 young people below the age of 20 on board the crashed plane," he said.

Airport officials said the flight left Cyprus at 9am (6pm NZ time) on Sunday and air traffic control lost contact at 10.30am. Greek Defence Ministry officials said 90 minutes elapsed between the alert first being raised and the plane crashing at 12.03pm.

Greek Government spokesman Theodore Roussopoulos said the F-16 pilots reported that with 737 pilots out of action there might have been a last-gasp effort by others on the plane to bring it back under control.

"The situation was characterised renegade, meaning the aircraft was not under the control of the pilots," Mr Roussopoulos said.

"At a later stage, the F-16s saw two individuals in the cockpit seemingly trying to regain control of the airplane. The F-16s also saw oxygen masks down when they got close to the aircraft. The aircraft was making continuous right-hand turns to show it had lost radio contact."

A passenger on the doomed plane said in a text message to his cousin in Athens: "The pilot has turned blue. Cousin farewell, we're freezing."

Reuters photographer Yannis Behrakis reported from the crash site that dozens of bodies were still strapped into their seats, some with the remnants of oxygen masks over their faces.

"Two charred bodies were still hugging each other," he said.

The Defence Ministry said it suspected the plane's oxygen supply or pressurisation system might have malfunctioned.

Loss of cabin pressure was identified as the probable cause of two similar but smaller-scale air crashes.

Pro-golfer Payne Stewart and five others were killed when their Learjet aircraft crashed in the United States in 1999 after flying for more than four hours without radio contact.

In 2000 a plane crashed in Australia after flying for more than an hour from 25,000ft up with no sign of life on board.

Experts said it was extremely rare for a plane to lose oxygen.

At Larnaca airport yesterday crew and passengers refused to board an aircraft belonging to Helios Airways, Cyprus News Agency reported.

About 100 passengers demanded to travel on planes of other airlines.


There are two types of decompression or loss of cabin pressure.

Creeping decompression: Caused by leaks from faulty window seals or small hull breaches. Gradual leaks provoke alarms, triggering oxygen masks and emergency measures to bring the aircraft down to breathable altitudes.

Rapid decompression: Cause could be sudden air conditioning failure and involves explosive noise. Leads to the expansion of gases within body cavities, loss of blood pressure, rupture of lung tissues and unconsciousness within 30 seconds.

Former BA captain Eric Moody said: " There's a big bang, and lots of white mist as the air inside disappears. You have to get an oxygen mask on as quickly as you can for an emergency descent."


17th Aug 2005, 05:36
Was appreaciating the story about this accident on 7:30 Report last night. Reasonable opinions offered, only the odd screwy misuse of terms by the talking head and no outrageous speculation.

Found out why when a credit was given for one bit to "www.pprune.org":8 :8 :8