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Kenya Airways Douala crash makes debut on National Geographic

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Kenya Airways (KQ) made its debut on the National Geographic channel in the popular investigative series, Air Crash Investigation, over its ill-fated 2007 Douala flight.

On May 5, 2007, Kenya Airways flight KQA507, from Abidjan to Nairobi, plunged into a mangrove swamp on a stormy night in Douala, Cameroon, minutes after take-off, killing all 114 people on board.

”Season 20 Episode 10: Stormy Cockpit”, which aired on Friday, simulated a 2010 report by Cameroon’s civil aviation authority which attributed the Boeing 737-800 crash to pilot error.

“A brand new 737 falls from the sky over West Africa during a major storm, but investigators eventually discover weather had nothing to do with it,” the introduction said.

According to the report, Captain Francis Mbatia, 52, appeared unaware the plane was dangerously banking to the right until it was too late to salvage the situation.

“The airplane crashed after loss of control by the crew as a result of spatial disorientation … after a long slow roll during which no instrument scanning was done, and in the absence of external visual references in a dark night,” the report said, adding that the pilot and his first officer, Andrew Kiuru, 23, didn’t have external visual references though they were flying in darkness in a heavy downpour.

Red Cross workers arrive near the scene of a
Red Cross workers arrive near the scene of a Kenya Airways plane crash in a swampy area close to the village of Mbanga Pongo, 23 km (14 miles) east of the city of Douala, May 7, 2007. A Kenya Airways plane that crashed after takeoff in Cameroon with 114 people on board is largely submerged in a swamp and there is no chance of survivors, Cameroon’s civil protection service said. Photo/REUTERS

Just before a warning sounded, said the report, instead of correcting to the left, the Captain turned further right, increasing the bank and ultimately sending the plane into a spiral.

The report also brought out some “shortcomings in the way the crew worked as a team”, adding that the crew also took off without authorisation from air traffic control at the Douala Airport.

The then KQ Managing Director Titus Naikuni expressed some of the airline’s reservations with the report, noting that its findings that the pilot had not properly engaged the autopilot after take-off was not factual.

“One of our reservations is to do with the autopilot, the crew resources management and safety programme implementation,” Mr Naikuni said at the time.

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