The aircraft involved in the accident, shown in 1994
|Date||31 March 1995|
|Summary||Auto-throttle failure and pilot incapacitation|
|Site||Balotești (Near Otopeni International Airport), Romania |
|Aircraft type||Airbus A310-324|
|IATA flight No.||RO371|
|ICAO flight No.||ROT371|
|Call sign||TAROM 371|
|Flight origin||Otopeni International Airport, Bucharest, Romania|
|Destination||Brussel-Zaventem Airport, Brussels, Belgium|
TAROM Flight 371 (RO371/ROT371) was a scheduled international passenger flight, with an Airbus A310 from Otopeni International Airport in Romania's capital Bucharest to Brussels Airport in Brussels, Belgium. The flight was operated by TAROM, the flag carrier of Romania. On 31 March 1995, the Airbus A310-324, registered as YR-LCC, entered a nose-down dive after take off and crashed near Balotești in Romania. All 60 people aboard were killed in the crash.
Investigation of the crash revealed that the faulty auto-throttle reduced the left engine to idle during climb. While this was happening, the Captain became incapacitated, leaving the First Officer overwhelmed and unable to respond properly to the failure. The crash was the deadliest plane crash in Romania's history. It was also the deadliest plane crash in TAROM's operational history.
The aircraft involved in the crash was an Airbus A310-324 registered as YR-LCC. The Manufacturer's Serial Number (MSN) was 450, and the aircraft had its first flight in 1987. It was powered by two Pratt and Whitney engines and had logged in 31,092 flight hours and 6,216 cycles. Its airworthiness certificate was issued on 13 April 1994.
Passengers and crew
The aircraft was carrying 49 passengers and 11 crew members. 32 of the passengers were from Belgium, 9 from Romania, three from the United States, two from Spain, one from France, one from Thailand, and one from the Netherlands.
The Captain of the flight was 48-year-old Liviu Bătănoiu. He had a total of 14,312 flying hours with 1,735 on the Airbus A310. He graduated from the Aurel Vlaicu Military Aviation School in 1969. Before the flight to Brussels, he was assigned for a Bucharest - Tel Aviv flight. The last training on the type was on 12 November 1994 in a Swissair facility in Zurich, Switzerland.
The First Officer was 51-year-old Ionel Stoi. He had a total of 8,988 flying hours with 650 on the Airbus A310. He graduated from the Aurel Vlaicu Military Aviation School in 1968. Before the flight to Brussels, he was assigned for a Chicago - Shannon flight. The last simulator training on the type was on 21 September 1994, carried out at a Swissair facility in Zurich, Switzerland.
TAROM Flight 371 took off at 09:06:44 local time (06:06:44 UTC) from runway 08R, with First Officer Stoi as the pilot handling the aircraft. The crew knew about a pre-existing anomaly with the thrust levers, with Captain Bătănoiu stating that he would guard the throttles during the climb. Stoi then asked Bătănoiu to retract the flaps and slats. Bătănoiu retracted the flaps, but failed to retract the slats. Noting this, Stoi asked his captain what was wrong. Bătănoiu told Stoi he felt sick, then fell silent, apparently having lost consciousness. While this was happening, the plane's left engine moved back to idle, resulting in asymmetric thrust as the right engine remained at climb power. The speed of the aircraft began to decrease and the aircraft banked to the left. Preoccupied with trying to wake Bătănoiu, Stoi did not notice the rapidly increasing left roll.
At 09:08:18 local time, the engine thrust asymmetry reached its maximum value of 0.42 and the aircraft was banking severely to the left at an angle of 45.09 degrees. The Flight Data Recorder recorded an attempt to engage the autopilot. Then, a continuous thrust reduction on engine no. 2 was recorded. The first officer then disengaged the autopilot and the aircraft began to lose altitude rapidly. Flight 371 began to dive to the ground. The aircraft rolled as its airspeed continued to increase. First Officer Stoi then cried out "That one has failed!". At the time, the aircraft was nose diving with a pitch angle of -61.5 degrees. The aircraft crashed into the ground at 09:08:34 near Balotesti with a speed of 324 knots.
Bucharest Tower then frantically tried to contact Flight 371, but to no avail. Bucharest Tower asked another aircraft flying in the vicinity to contact Flight 371, while requesting that the TAROM dispatcher contact Flight 371 as well. After confirming that Flight 371 had lost all contact, Bucharest Tower issued a DETRESFA on the flight. Search and rescue teams were assembled by authorities and later found the crash site. The aircraft was pulverized on impact. The impact left a 6 meter deep crater on the field. No survivors were found. All 60 people aboard were killed instantly on impact.
Investigators discovered that there was a problem with the automatic throttle system (ATS), which controls the throttle of aircraft's engines. During their examination on the aircraft's logbook, they discovered that during the aircraft climb after take off, engine no. 1 had a tendency to go back to idle when switching from take-off power to climb power. The reason was unknown. After maintenance action taken by ground crew, the malfunction did not occur again until 16 March 1995. However, the ground crew warned about the possible recurrence of the malfunction. From the aircraft history record obtained from the FAA, similar malfunction had been reported during its operation with Delta Air Lines. Delta performed the same actions that TAROM did.
Airbus Industrie was aware of the automatic throttle system (ATS) malfunction. This defect could cause either the jamming of both throttles and ATS disconnection, or one throttle moving to idle while the other remained above climb power, without ATS disconnection. Investigators stated that the most probable cause of this malfunction was due to the excessive friction in the kinematic linkages between the throttle and the ATS coupling units. At the time of the accident, the Flight Crew Operating Manual (FCOM) issued by Airbus Industrie didn't include the procedures to cope with the anomaly. However, the FCOM issued by TAROM and Swissair did include these procedures.
A monument dedicated to the memories of the ones who perished in the accident is situated in the vicinity of the crash site. (Google Maps).
In popular culture
- List of accidents and incidents involving commercial aircraft
- China Airlines Flight 006, another incident involving asymmetric thrust
- Aeroflot Flight 821
- "15 ani de la cea mai mare catastrofă aeriană din istoria României" [15 years from the biggest air catastrophe in Romania's history]. Adevărul (in Romanian). 31 March 2010. Archived from the original on 24 December 2010.
- "Final Report of the Administrative Investigation Comission" (PDF). aias.gov.ro. Romania: Civil Aviation Inspectorate, Ministry of Transport. 21 September 2000.
- Ranter, Harro. "ASN Aircraft accident Airbus A310-324 YR-LCC Bucharest-Otopeni International Airport (OTP)". aviation-safety.net. Retrieved 31 October 2019.
- Ranter, Harro. "Aviation Safety Network > ASN Aviation Safety Database > Geographical regions > Romania air safety profile". aviation-safety.net. Retrieved 7 February 2019.
- Ranter, Harro. "Aviation Safety Network > ASN Aviation Safety Database > Operator index > Romania > Tarom". aviation-safety.net. Retrieved 7 February 2019.
- "Tests Show Explosion in Romania Air Crash". The New York Times. 4 April 1995.
- "AirDisaster.Com Accident Photo: Tarom 731 – Airbus A310-324 YR-LCC". www.airdisaster.com. Archived from the original on 22 October 2015. Retrieved 31 May 2016.
- "Fatal Climb". Air Crash Investigation. Season 19. Cineflix Productions. 28 October 2019. National Geographic Channel.