SATA HB-ICK – 18. December 1977

Date  18. December 1977
Location Madeira, Portugal
C/N 200
Model  Caravelle 10R
Airline SATA
Registration HB-ICK
Occupants  1/5   + 35/51
Aircraft history HB-ICK c/n   200 Caravelle, made its first flight on December 6th 1965 as F-BNFE. The   aircraft was delivered to Alia Royal Jordanien Airlines as JY-ACT named   “Jerusalem” on February 25th 1966. It was bought by SA de Transport   Aerien (SATA) on March 21st 1973 and registered as HB-ICK.
Accident description The terrible accident of the Boeing B727 at Funchal killing 131   occupants had just been 4 weeks ago….Funchal is well known as a demanding airport – at that time the runway   was just 1600 meters long and on top of a hill – only well trained crews are   allowed to fly to Funchal.

At 16:00 local time passengers were boarding the ill-fated Caravelle   c/n 200 HB-ICK at Zürich airport. After a stop-over at Geneva Cointrin the   aircraft rotated, at 17:26 local time into the dark sky of Geneva bound for   Funchal . 52 passengers and 4 crew members were onboard SATA flight 730. The   Captain on this flight was seating in the right seat in the cockpit and acted   as a co-pilot. For the co-pilot, sitting on the left hand seat, this was the   first flight to Funchal. According to regulations a third pilot had to be in   the cockpit on flights to Funchal sitting on the jump-seat observing both   pilots. But this was not the case at SATA. The Caravelle was cruising at   33.000 feet when the crew prepared for landing. According to the approach   charts for runway 26, MAD VOR must be passed followed by a small right turn   until intercepting the ILS. However on December 18th 1977 this was not the   case as runway 06 was in use, not the 26. Runway 06 is extremely difficult to   approach particularly at night as this runway does not have an ILS.   Approaching aircraft must perform a right turn after passing MAD VOR and   continue downwind until making a 180° turn to commence the final approach. At   20:11 local time HB-ICK was passing MAD VOR and contacted the controller and   the pilot advised him that they will perform a visual approach to runway 06.   The pilots were asked to call him when they had the runway in sight – the   weather was fine with good visibilities and light North-West winds. Flaps and   gear were extended and at this point the pilots should have had visual   contact to the airport and the runway but they did not contact the   controller. Flight 730 descended below the minimum downwind altitude of   720ft. Both pilots were looking out of the window in order to find the   airport. By now it was impossible to see the approach lights as the plane was   already to low. The pilots still did not realize they were descending through   200 feet even the acoustic sign which is activated when passing 200 feet   above the ground was not heard. Just as the pilots were performing a right   turn to start the final approach (although the runway was still not in sight)   the right wing struck the water followed by the undercarriage. Some   passengers though that the plane had landed but panicked when the airframe   broke in two pieces. The pilots escaped via the cockpit window and some   passengers were able to leave the sinking plane via the open fuselage. Most passengers could not open their seat belts as these were blocked by impact.  Some flight attendants were able to help the passengers to get the life vest   on but two minutes after impact the entire aircraft including 36 occupants sunk. The first survivors were picked up by a private motorboat at 21:30 local time and the others 40 minutes later. 35 passengers perished.

Since this accident the type of seat-belts used on HB-ICK is no longer approved. The Swiss airline SATA went bankrupt soon after this accident as it had not even paid its maintenance bills.

The wreck was rediscovered by divers in 2011 and was found to be in excellent condition.