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Cyprus News Agency: News in English, 06-10-10

Cyprus News Agency: News in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Cyprus News Agency at <>




    President of the Greek Air Accident Investigation and Aviation Safety Board Akrivos Tsolakis handed to Cypriot Authorities the final report into the cause of an Helios air crash in Athens on August 14 2005 all 121 passengers on board.

    Tsolakis, who presented a 198-page report to Cyprus president Tassos Papadopoulos and to Minister of Communications and Works Haris Thrasou, said in statements that the report closes the cycle of investigation, 14 months after the crash and assured that the report is transparent and shows the causes of the crash.

    Thrasou reiterated the President`s statement that the responsibilities for the air crash will be attributed.

    ``We believe that we are on the right track to reach conclusions, which will serve justice and satisfy the public opinion,`` Thrasou said, adding that the government has secured a transparent procedure so that responsibilities will be attributed.

    ``Now that we have the report to our hands we believe that Panagiotis Kallis, President of the Inquiring Committee into the causes of the air crash, based on the report will follow the web and proceed to attribute responsibilities``.

    Furthermore, head of the committee of relatives of the victims Nicolas Yiasoumis described the report as a ``functional tool,`` with which those responsible for the crash will be brought before justice.

    ``For justice to be given those responsible should be pinpointed and at this stage there is a functional tool so that responsibilities would be attributed,`` Yiasoumis said

    In statements after meeting the President, Tsolakis also urged the Cypriots to look towards the future and pointed that out of the ``victims` sacrifices the lessons stemming from this accident and the various safety recommendations contribute tremendously to world flight safety.``

    ``At this moment there are 2,500 Boeing 737 in service all over the globe and each one of them carries 155 persons on board,`` he added.

    The Commission of Inquiry headed by former Supreme Court judge Panayiotis Kallis is expected to name those involved in the tragedy so that the Attorney General can bring criminal liability charges against those persons.

    The investigation by the Commission is being carried out in an open public hearing procedure, during which the conditions under which the company, the planes and the crew got their licenses, are also examined. The Commission is also examining how the security and other checks were carried out for that flight and that plane.

    The Boeing 737 was on its way to Prague, via Athens, when it crashed into the mountain side north of the Greek capital killing 121 passengers and crew on board, most of them Cypriots going on holiday. The Boeing came down as two Greek F-16 jets were accompanying it after it failed to respond to calls from Athens` control tower.


    A report into the cause of an Helios air crash in August last year has concluded that the aircraft crashed because warnings that things were wrong had not been identified, the cabin pressurization selector was in the manual position, the crew was incapacitated because of lack of oxygen and the aircraft ran out of fuel.

    The report, to be made public later today, is the result of months of work by the Chairman of the Greek Air Accident and Incidents Investigative Committee Akrivos Tsolakis and his team.

    The report also points to deficiencies in the quality, management and safety procedures followed by the operator, to long-term inadequacy on the part of the regulatory authority to meet its safety responsibilities, to the manufacturers inability to take effective measures to rectify previous pressurization incidents and to inadequate application of principles relating to crew resource management.

    The report describes the fatal flight on 14 August, 2005 from Larnaca to Prague via Athens which crashed at Grammatiko, north of Athens, killing all 121 people of board, most of them Cypriots.

    The report prepared by the Chairman of the Greek Air Accident and Incidents Investigating Committee Akrivos Tsolakis on the cause of the Helios Airways air crash in August 2005 that killed all 121 people on board, says that the Air Accident Investigation and Aviation Safety Board (AAIASB) of the Hellenic Ministry of Transport and Communications investigated the accident following ICAO practices and determined that the accident resulted from direct and latent causes.

    According to the report, the direct causes were non-recognition that the cabin pressurisation mode selector was in the MAN (manual) position during the performance of the Preflight procedure, the Before Start checklist and the After Takeoff checklist, non-identification of the warnings and the reasons for the activation of the warnings (Cabin Altitude Warning Horn, Passenger Oxygen Masks Deployment indication, Master Caution), and incapacitation of the flight crew due to hypoxia, resulting in the continuation of the flight via the flight management computer and the autopilot, depletion of the fuel and engine flameout, and the impact of the aircraft with the ground.

    The latent causes operators deficiencies in the organisation, quality management, and safety culture, Regulatory Authoritys diachronic inadequate execution of its safety oversight responsibilities, inadequate application of Crew Resource Management principles, and ineffectiveness of measures taken by the manufacturer in response to previous pressurisation incidents in the particular type of aircraft.

    The AAIASB further concluded that factors which may have contributed to the accident were omission of returning the cabin pressurisation mode selector to the AUTO position after non-scheduled maintenance on the aircraft, lack of cabin crew procedures (at an international level) to address events involving loss of pressurisation and continuation of the climb despite passenger oxygen masks deployment, and ineffectiveness of international aviation authorities to enforce implementation of actions plans resulting from deficiencies documented in audits.

    In the months following the accident, the AAIASB made seven interim safety recommendations, namely five recommendations to the National Transportation Safety Board and to the manufacturer, four of which already resulted in the implementation of corrective actions, one recommendation to the Cyprus Air Accident and Incident Investigation Board and the airlines based in Cyprus, for which corrective action had already been taken, and one recommendation to the Hellenic Civil Aviation Authority (HCAA), which also resulted in the implementation of corrective action.

    In addition, the FAA in the United States issued an Airworthiness Directive (AD) which informed flight crews about upcoming, improved procedures for pre-flight setup of the cabin pressurisation system, as well as improved procedures for interpreting and responding to the Cabin Altitude Warning Horn and to the Takeoff or Landing Configuration Warning Horn.

    The report also identifies a number of additional safety deficiencies pertaining to maintenance procedures, pilot training, normal and emergency procedures, organisational issues of the Operator, organisational issues related to safety oversight of maintenance and flight operations by Cyprus DCA, EASA/JAA and ICAO, issues related to the aircraft manufacturers documentation for maintenance and flight operations, and issues related to handling by the International Authorities of precursor incident information so as to implement preventive measures in a timely manner.

    As a consequence, in its Final Report the AAIASB promulgated an additional eleven safety recommendations, addressed to the Republic of Cyprus, EASA, JAA and ICAO.

    In accordance with ICAO Annex 13, paragraph 6.3, copies of the Draft Final Report were sent on 18 May 2006 to the States that participated in the investigation, inviting their comments. The comments sent to the AAIASB by the relevant Authorities in Cyprus, the United Kingdom and the United States were taken into account in the Final Report.

    The report, which was given to the press by the Greek side, was presented this morning to Greek Transport Minister Michalis Liapis and the Court of First Instance in Athens. Tsolakis will be arriving in Cyprus later today to present his report to Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos, during a special ceremony to be attended by Minister of Communications and Works Haris Thrasou and Chairman of Cyprus Air Crash and Incidents Investigation Committee Costas Orphanos.

    The report says that on 14 August 2005, a Boeing 737-300 aircraft, registration number 5B-DBY, operated by Helios Airways, departed Larnaca, Cyprus at 09:07 local time for Prague, Czech Republic, via Athens, Hellas.

    The aircraft was cleared to climb to FL340 and to proceed direct to RDS VOR. As the aircraft climbed through 16,000 ft, the Captain contacted the company Operations Centre and reported a Take-off Configuration Warning and an Equipment Cooling System problem.

    Several communications between the Captain and the Operations Centre took place in the next eight minutes concerning these problems and ended as the aircraft climbed through 28,900 ft. Thereafter, there was no response to radio calls to the aircraft. During the climb, at an aircraft altitude of 18,200 ft, the passenger oxygen masks deployed in the cabin. The aircraft leveled off at FL340 and continued on its programmed route.

    At 10:21, the aircraft flew over the KEA VOR, then over the Athens International Airport, and subsequently entered the KEA VOR holding pattern at 10:38.

    At 11:24, during the sixth holding pattern, the Boeing 737 was intercepted by two F-16 aircraft of the Hellenic Air Force. One of the F-16 pilots observed the aircraft at close range and reported at 11:32 that the Captains seat was vacant, the First Officers seat was occupied by someone who was slumped over the controls, the passenger oxygen masks were seen dangling and three motionless passengers were seen seated wearing oxygen masks in the cabin.

    No external damage or fire was noted and the aircraft was not responding to radio calls. At 11:49, he reported a person not wearing an oxygen mask entering the cockpit and occupying the Captains seat. The F-16 pilot tried to attract his attention without success. At 11:50, the left engine flamed out due to fuel depletion and the aircraft started descending. At 11:54, two MAYDAY messages were recorded on the CVR.

    At 12:00, the right engine also flamed out at an altitude of approximately 7,100 ft. The aircraft continued descending rapidly and impacted hilly terrain at 12:03 in the vicinity of Grammatiko village, Hellas, approximately 33 km northwest of the Athens International Airport. The 115 passengers and six crew members on board were fatally injured. The aircraft was destroyed.


    Irish President Mary McAleese wrapped up today her official visit to Cyprus and departed this afternoon from Larnaca airport.

    Before departing, McAleese held a brief meeting at the Presidential Palace with President of the Republic of Cyprus Tassos Papadopoulos, followed by an official seeing off ceremony with the band playing the National Anthems of both countries.

    After inspecting the Guard of Honour, McAleese left for Larnaca airport where Foreign Minister George Lillikas bid her farewell.

    The Irish President and her entourage departed from the island on a special flight.

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