Re: Martinair DC-10 crash, December 21, 1992

Dear Editor,

The aircraft was a DC-10-30CF PH-MBN (not a Boeing 707). The aircraft actually belonged to the Dutch Air Force and was on lease to Martinair.

The accident aircraft had left Amsterdam with one inoperative thrust reverser. This was obviously legal (aircraft performance is usually calculated without using reverse). However, in light of the forecast weather (heavy rain, thunderstorms, wet runway etc. at FAO) it would have been prudent to have that thrust reverser serviceable before departure.

It should be noted that FAO did not have an ILS (Instrument Landing System) so that a non-precision VOR/DME approach would have to be made. Also it seems that the airport did not have a Precision Approach Path Indicator (PAPI).

The weather when that aircraft arrived in the vicinity of FAO was bad with thunderstorms and 3/8 cloud cover down to 500 feet, other clouds at 2300 feet and 2500 feet. Wind was from 150 degrees at 18 knots. There was clear sky overhead the airport. It is highly probable that there was wind shear and microburst activity in the area. The tower reported that the runway was “flooded”.

The First Officer (F/O) was the pilot flying with the captain acting as the co-pilot. The F/O flew most the approach (which did not appear to be stabilised) with the captain warning the F/O that he was a “bit low” and the captain took control about 4 seconds before contacting the runway at a very high rate of descent in a 40 knot crosswind (beyond the DC-10s allowable component).

This resulted in the right main gear collapsing, the right engine and wing tip contacting the runway, the right wing rupturing, the airframe rolling and breaking up, fuel leaking and fire breaking out. Sadly, 56 people died.

I was surprised to learn that the captain only took control of the aircraft about 4 seconds before impact. He should have flown the entire approach. If he was unable to land (due to an un-stabilised approach – most airlines require aircraft to be stabilised on approach at 1,000 ft above the runway) – he should either have gone around and tried again, gone into a holding pattern to await better weather or, depending on the circumstances, diverted to Lisbon.

The Flight Safety Foundation published a document about this accident in August 1996 (

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