Plane overshot runway, hit car and exploded after pilots ignored vital alarm

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One of the most deadliest plane disasters occurred when an airline pilot ignored warnings on the on-board alarm system and overran the runway in a fatal crash in Argentina.

On August 31, 1999, a Boeing 737-204C craft overran the runway – killing 63 on board and two on the ground.

The horror incident took place at Aeroparque Jorge Newbery in Beunos Aires, Argentina.

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The specific craft involved was built in 1970 and was due to depart at around 8.54pm local time, but failed to actually get airborne.

Just as it was starting its takeover run, the take-off warnings system – better known as TOWS – activated and set off an alarm in the cockpit.

The system was telling the pilots that the craft was “not correctly configured” to take off, but the warning was ignored.

It later emerged that the flaps on the wings were indeed not in the take-off position, and were actually fully retracted.

This stopped the craft from taking off, and it ended up overshooting the runway, breaking the fence surrounding the airport, crossing a road and hitting a car.

It finally stopped when it hit some construction machinery nearby.

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Sadly, a fuel spillage as a result of the crash started to happen, which hit the hot engines.

Gas was also leaking from an internal system, and the entire craft was destroyed in the ensuing blast.

But before the explosion, 37 people managed to escape out of the 100 on-board – five of whom were crew.

In the investigation after the horror scene, it became clear that the pilot did not have a license – which the airline Lineas Aereas Privadas Argentinas knew about.

A report into the incident stated: “In its final run after failing to take off, the aircraft hit a Chrysler Neon car that was travelling on the Rafael Obligado road that crosses the projection of Runway 13.

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“The car's fuel in contact with sparks from the sliding fuselage against the tarmac and the dragged automobile possibly ignited a fire on the left front side of the aircraft, which grew from rupture of the wings which spilled jet fuel of type JP-1.

“Also, as a result of a gas regulator plant being hit, a gas leak developed.

“The fire moved to the back of the aircraft, covering it entirely.”

The actual cause of the crash was blamed on the pilot simply “forgetting” to extend the wing flaps, and ignoring the alarms – this was put down to a lack of crew discipline and training.

In March 2000, 540 were called to a court case about the incident.

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It was determined, in a 1200-page document, that four LAPA officials and three Air Force members should be charged, although ultimately the blame fell on pilot Gustavo Weigel who was killed in the incident.

It wasn't until 2010 when jail terms were handed out.

Operations manager Fabian Chionetti was given a three year term for criminal negligence, as was HR manager Nora Arzeno, however these were overturned in 2014 after it was ruled that it had taken too long to charge anyone.

A film was made about the crash called Whisky Romeo Zulu, released in 2004 at the Toronto International Film festival.

It won seven awards in total.

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