Bagram crash probe cites payload shift

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Armoured vehicle payload shifting could have caused the 29 April National Air Cargo Boeing 747 Bagram Airfield crash, according to the US government’s National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).

This was revealed in the accident docket opened by NTSB on 3 February, as part of an ongoing probe. The docket summarises the operational factors, but draws no conclusions on what caused it.

National Airlines’ cargo subsidiary National Air Cargo’s flight NCR102 crashed at the Afghan base on take-off at 11.20h local time on its way to Al Maktoum International Airport. The crash  killed all seven crew  and destroyed the aircraft. The aircraft had stopped at Bagram to refuel for its onward journey.

The NTSB report says: “According to National Airlines, the accident captain and first officer did not have prior experience carrying mine-resistant armoured vehicles, and it was the first time National Airlines had transported 18 tonne military vehicles.

“According to recorded data at about 09.57h while the aircraft was still on the ramp in Bagram, the captain was made aware of a broken strap found by one of the other crewmembers, and the cockpit crew had a discussion about a possible shift of the cargo load during landing in Bagram. There was additional discussion on re-securing the load prior to departure.”

The report states the aircraft was loaded with five mine-resistant ambush protected armoured military vehicles on the main deck, two weighing about 12 tonnes each, and the other three about 18 tonnes each, while at Camp Bastion in Afghanistan. The UK military were based at Camp Bastion from 2006 until 2014. 

The NTSB says analysis of the Bagram accident, along with conclusions and a determination of probable cause will come at a later date when the final report on the investigation is completed. Last October, the Afghanistan Civil Aviation Authority delegated the remainder of the investigation to the NTSB, which includes completing the final report. National Air Cargo was unavailable for comment.

The company is taking legal action over the government insurance for the crashed aircraft. It is sueing the US government’s Federal Aviation Administration because the FAA is refusing to reimburse National’s insurer AIG. Companies providing services in war zones have to get a particular type of insurance, which is to be paid by the government in the event there is a claim. The FAA refused to pay in the case of the Bagram crash. According to the US government’s Department of Justice, the US Federal court may not decide until 2016 if the National Air Cargo, AIG claim should be heard.

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