Pilot's 'heartrending' 10 words before plane burst into flames and crashed (2024)

El Al flight 1862 crashed just seven minutes after departing from Amsterdam. All four people on board were killed and 39 people on the ground also lost their lives

Pilot's 'heartrending' 10 words before plane burst into flames and crashed (1)

The haunting final words of a pilot who was aware of the disaster that was unfolding in front of his eyes have resurfaced as people remember the worst aviation disaster to have occurred in the Netherlands.

It is estimated that 43 people were killed - including all four on board and at least 39 on the ground - when El Al flight 1862 erupted into a fireball after crashing into a block of flats just 13 minutes after take-off. First officer Arnon Ohad, radioed air traffic control and said: "Going down, 1862, going down, going down, copied, going down."

The Boeing 747 freighter originated from New York JFK Airport and was due to travel to Tel Aviv Ben Gurion Airport in Israel following a stopover at Amsterdam Schiphol. During the first leg of the flight, autopilot speed fluctuations reportedly occurred and the crew also had to deal with radio issues - but the plane landed safely in Amsterdam at 2.40pm on October 4, 1992.

While in Amsterdam, the flight had a crew change, the cargo was processed and the aircraft was refuelled. The plane was scheduled to depart toward Israel at 5.30pm local time, but began its taxi at 6.14pm. It took off from Schiphol's airport at 6.21pm but flew for just seven minutes, when disaster struck.

The plane was climbing through 6,500ft when one of the engines separated from the aircraft's wing and shot forward, damaging the wing slats before falling back and hitting another engine, tearing it off. At this point, the crew declared an emergency and requested to return to Schiphol.

The first officer said: "El Al 1862, lost number three and number four engine, number three and number four engine." But the air traffic controllers on the ground didn't grasp the severity of the situation or that the engines had broken off, reports the Daily Star. They cleared Schipol's longest runway for an emergency landing with the plane battling against a 21-knot tailwind.

But with the plane still too high and close to land, it was forced to continue circling Amsterdam until it could reduce to an altitude suitable for landing. During the second circle, the wing flaps were extended but the outboard trailing edge flaps did not because they were powered by one of the missing engine's hydraulic systems, which failed when it broke away.

It caused the left wing to generate significantly more lift than the right. As the aircraft slowed, the crew were unable to stop it from rolling to the side. The roll reached 90 degrees before the plane nose dived into the apartments, exploding into a fireball which caused the building to partially collapse.

Just before impact, the flight officer radioed to air traffic control: "Going down, 1862, going down, going down, copied, going down." In the background, experienced captain, Yitzhak Fuchs was heard instructing the first officer in Hebrew to raise the flaps and lower the landing gear.

Many of the apartments' residents were immigrants, making the death toll impossible to estimate accurately, but police believed the number to be over 200. Some managed to escape by leaping from their windows.

Among those onboard was a 23-year-old El Al employee who was travelling to Tel Aviv to get married. The horror stories that emerged from the ground included that of Marlene and Stanley Truideman who left their flat in time to witness the crash which killed their two teenage children who were watching TV inside.

Investigations later revealed issues with engine pylon design and poor maintenance which made the chance of a safe landing "virtually impossible". In 1998 it was revealed the plane had been carrying at least one of the ingredients needed to make the nerve gas sarin, sparking claims of a cover-up.

Hundreds of local residents also reported health problems thought to be related to the crash, such as depression, listlessness and respiratory problems. An official report published in 1999 censured the government for failing to investigate the crash properly and initiate health checks.

The tragedy resurfaced after a reenactment video was uploaded to TheFlightChannel on YouTube earlier this month attracting over 55,00 views and 300 comments. One said: "The co-pilot on the El Al flight bravely and definitively declaring they were going down when he knew there was no chance of recovery is chilling and inspiring.

"He was a professional right to the end. The fact they kept control of an aircraft that was so mortally wounded for almost five minutes is a tribute to their skill and calm reasoning. I think they would have been devastated to know their plane killed so many on the ground."

Another commented: "As he's looking death in the face, the FO's (first officer) matter-of-fact 'we're going down,' is utterly heartrending." One said: "I lived in the apartments that the 747 crashed into. I was enjoying a nice warm bath at the time when all of a sudden there was a massive bang and it blew all my windows out. I'm amazed I survived."

Pilot's 'heartrending' 10 words before plane burst into flames and crashed (2024)
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