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Published:February 27th, 2009 09:45 EST
A Turkish Flight Bound for Amsterdam Crashes, Killing 9

A Turkish Flight Bound for Amsterdam Crashes, Killing 9

By Christopher HIllenbrand

A Boeing 737-800 routed from Istanbul to Amsterdam crashed into a swampy field just outside Amsterdam while it was on its final approach into Schiphol Airport early Wednesday morning. Miraculously, 125 of the 134 passengers on board survived. Everyone in the cockpit, including both pilots and an apprentice pilot were counted among the dead.


Without warning, the Turkish Airlines carrier nosedived from the skies over Amsterdam before hitting an open field about 2 miles away from the runway at 10:31 A.M. Central European time. The jetliner splintered into 3 sections on impact. The fuselage cracked into 2, with one break near the cockpit, and the tail snapped off.


If the wreckage caught fire, the aftereffects might`ve spelled doom for many of the 125 passengers that were rescued from the scene.


When the crash was first covered, Turkish Airlines reported that all 134 on board survived. Later, Michel Bezuijen, the interim mayor of Haarlemmermeer, corrected the mistake and announced that 9 of the Boeing`s passengers died.


One of the survivors, Huseyin Sumer, spoke with Turkish NTV television reporters about how he scrambled to safety out an opening in the fuselage.


"We were about to land, we could not understand what was happening, some passengers screamed in panic but it happened so fast. Mr. Sumer went on to say that the crash only lasted 5 to 10 seconds."


Of the 55 survivors who were reportedly injured: 6 were in critical condition, 25 were seriously hurt while the other 24 suffered minor injuries. The injured were taken to 11 local hospitals including a makeshift field hospital organized by the Dutch military in the nearby city of Utrecht. 72 Turks and 32 Dutch citizens were among the passenger list, according to Selahattin Alpar, the Turkish ambassador to the Netherlands.  


The flight data recorders were found by investigators not far from the crash site, and have been whisked off to laboratories for analysis. Pieter van Vollenhoven, from the Dutch Safety Authority, headed the recovery team in charge of investigating the accident. Vollenhoven argued that the plane appeared to have lost speed immediately before it crashed.


"You see that because of a lack of speed it literally fell out of the sky," he repeated to NOS radio in Amsterdam after returning from the crash scene.


Turkish officials with the Turkish Transport pronounced that it was a miracle that only 9 people perished, especially since the jetliner violently shattered into pieces when it hit the ground. The Turkish Transport Minister Binali Yildirim remarked about the circumstances that led to a fortuitous outcome for the passengers.


"The fact that the plane landed on a soft surface and that there was no fire helped keep the number of fatalities low," he surmised.


Plane crash experts found credence in the minister`s explanation. They suggested that the fuel tanks and fuel lines that were damaged extensively on impact didn`t explode because they crashed into a soft surface. Since the plane crashed only minutes prior to it reaching its destination, the fuel tanks were almost completely empty: contributing to the theory that the surface cushioned the blow to the plane`s undercarriage and averted further catastrophe. Had the plane crash landed on a more rigid surface, the tank would`ve likely burst.


Experts also divulged the fact that crashes involving recently constructed airliners are more livable because of better engineering principles in reinforced structures and fire retardant advances in making passenger seats and fixtures. There have also been better emergency exercises practiced by the cockpit and flight crews.


The miraculous landing on the Hudson River is a prime example of the new technology`s effectiveness in saving lives.


Investigators are following several leads into what caused the plane to crash such as weather-related contributors like wind shear and icing that would bog down vital mechanical equipment. Other likely suspects are pilot fatigue, bird collision, and navigational errors. One last option that investigators suspected as the culprit was that it was a terror attack. A spokesman for the Dutch Anti-Terror Coordinator`s office denied that terrorism was a viable cause for the crash landing. Wim Kok stated that there are no indications whatsoever (of a terror attack).


The inquiries may not take as long as people may expect because of the latest refinements made to the black boxes now coming equipped with Boeing 737s. The authority`s findings probably won`t be available for the public until the end of the year.


In terms of weather, it was overcast with a constant drizzle over Amsterdam at the time. To prevent the media from jumping to conclusions, the head of Turkish Airlines board of directors stressed that visibility was good at the time the plane began to descend.


"Visibility was clear and around 5,000 yards. Some 550 yards before landing; the plane landed on a plane instead of a runway,"  the head, Candan Karltekin, claimed. "We have checked the plane`s documents and there is no problem concerning maintenance."


Chief Executive for Turkish Airlines, Termel Kotil, attested that the pilot, Hasan Tahsin, was a more than capable, seasoned veteran straight out of the Turkish Air Force after years of experience.


This is the most recent in a string of severe crashes in the airline`s history. In 1974, a DC-10 crashed en route to Paris when a cargo door flung off mid-flight, claiming 360 lives. As late as 2003, a RJ-100 overshot the runway in the Turkish city of Diyarbakir and jackknifed into a field, killing 75 people.


A representative for Boeing reported that the company is sending their own team of specialists to assist in combing through the technical aspects of the crash with the Dutch`s investigators. He refused to comment on a rumor that 4 Boeing employees were aboard the ill-fated flight.


  The Boeing model involved in the accident was commissioned in 2002 and was cleared by maintenance checkups as of December 22nd. Boeing`s 737 is the highest selling commercial jet model in the world, with sales exceeding 5,000 since the line`s inception in 1965.


Bill Voss, the president from the Independent Flight Safety Foundation based in Alexandria, Virginia, said the modern 737-800 model generally has a very good safety record. "It has been involved in a couple accidents, but nothing that relates directly back o the aircraft." Voss further informed reporters that the model has the newest state of the art flight recorders that will expedite the authority`s probes into the cause or causes of the tragedy.