One of the First Kapton Victims

By Andrew Ayers

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Saudia flight SV163 departed Riyadh's international airport shortly before 10:00pm the night of August 19, 1980. 287 passengers and 14 crew members were aboard the L-1011-200 bound for Jeddah. About seven minutes into the flight, while climbing through 15,000ft, the crew was alerted by aural and visual indicators that there was smoke in the aft cargo compartment. The crew then spent the next four minutes trying to confirm the warnings and finding the smoke alert procedure in the aircraft's manual. At this point, the Captain decided to return to the airport. The number 2 engine thrust lever became stuck and the crew then shut it down. Despite this, the aircraft landed safely back at Riyadh. Instead of stopping the aircraft, the crew continued to roll out and did not stop until on a taxiway, some 2 minutes and 40 seconds after touchdown. In addition, the engines weren't shut down for another 3 minutes and 15 seconds, preventing rescue crews from being able to enter the aircraft. Rescue crews were also not familiar with the exit locations on the aircraft and it was an incredible 23 minutes after engine shutdown before the fuselage was accessed. All 310 people aboard the aircraft were killed.

Review of the CVR showed a serious breakdown in crew co-ordination almost from the first sign of trouble. The Captain failed to delegate responsibility to the other crew members, deciding to fly the aircraft and try to assess and remedy the problem as well. The First Officer had very limited experience on the L-1011 and did not try to assist the Captain in flying the aircraft or monitoring communications or systems. The Second Officer, who was thought to be dyslexic, spent nearly all of his time searching through the aircraft's operations manual, the whole time repeating to himself  "No Problem." In addition, the Captain did not warn the cabin crew to prepare for evacuation nor did he even indicate that an evacuation was going to take place. Instead, he told the flight crew NOT to evacuate after landing. After the aircraft was stopped, one final transmission was received, indicating that an evacuation was about to take place. The evacuation never began however. The fire had moved rapidly forward and all of the victims were found in the forward half of the aircraft though none of the doors had been opened. It is not known why the crew was not able to better co-ordinate their efforts to handle the emergency more efficiently and prepare the crew for an immediate evacuation. It seems unbelievable that the aircraft could land safely with all alive on board and yet not one person was able to escape. Following the accident, Lockheed removed the insulation from above the rear cargo area and reinforced it with high strength glass laminate. In addition, Saudia revised their emergency procedures and evacuation training and also sealed off all of the C-3 baggage areas.

# 3) 19.08.80 (19.08 GMT)           Lockheed L-1011 TriStar 200
HZ-AHK (1169) Saudia
[year built: 1979]
occupants: 14 crew + 287 passengers = 301.

fatalities: 14 crew + 287 passengers = 301.

location: Riyadh-King Kahlid IAP (Saudi Arabia)

nature: Scheduled Passenger phase: Climb/Ground
flight Riyadh-King Kahlid IAP - Jeddah-King Abdul Aziz IAP Flightnr.: 163

Flight SV163 landed at Riyadh at 16.06h GMT for a scheduled intermediate stop after a flight from Karachi. At 18.08hrs the aircraft took off for the final leg to Jeddah. Six minutes and 54secs. after take-off, while climbing to FL350, visual and aural warnings indicated smoke in the aft cargo compartment C-3. Climbing through FL220 (at 18.20h), a return to Riyadh was initiated. About two minutes later smoke was noted in the aft of the cabin, and passengers were panicking. At 18.25:26h the no.2 engine throttle was stuck. The fire had by then entered the cabin of the TriStar. Because passengers where fighting in the aisles, aft of doors L2 and R2, the captain asked everybody to remain seated (18.27:40). On final approach engine no.2 was shut down, and the captain told the cabin crew not to evacuate. Flight SV163 landed back at Riyadh runway 01 at 18.36:24hrs. The crew continued to a taxiway and told the tower that they were going to shut the engines down and evacuate. The engines were shut down at 18.42:18h. Because no evacuation had been initiated by then, crash, fire and rescue personnel tried to open the doors. At about 19.05 they succeeded in opening door 2R. About three minutes later, the interior was seen to be engulfed in flames. 
PROBABLE CAUSE: "The initiation of a fire in the C-3 cargo compartment. The source of the ignition of the fire is undetermined. Factors contributing to the fatal results of this accident were 1) the failure of the captain to prepare the cabin crew for immediate evacuation upon landing and his failure in not making a maximum stop landing on the runway, with immediate evacuation, 2) the failure of the captain to properly utilize his flight crew throughout the emergency 3) the failure of C/F/R headquarters management personnel to ensure that its personnel had adequate equipment and training to function as required during an emergency."

Source: FAA-ASF-81-4(57):; NTSB Safety Recommendations A-81- 12/13; ICAO Circular 178-AN/111 (95-150) + FI 30.08.1980 (730)

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