On April 29, 2013, National Airlines Flight 102, a cargo flight, was operated between Camp Bastion in Afghanistan and Al Maktoum Airport in Dubai, with a refueling stop at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. Tragically, the flight ended in disaster when the Boeing 747-400 aircraft crashed moments after taking off from Bagram, killing all seven people on board.
The subsequent investigation revealed that the cause of the crash was improperly secured cargo that broke free during the takeoff and rolled to the back of the cargo hold, crashing through the rear pressure bulkhead and disabling the rear flight control systems. This rendered the aircraft uncontrollable, making recovery from a stall, brought on by the damaged rear flight control systems, impossible.
At the time of the crash, National Airlines had been operating between Camp Bastion and Dubai for a month. The accident flight had originated in Camp Bastion, where it had been loaded with five heavy armored vehicles, and had stopped at Bagram Airfield to refuel. The aircraft then took off from Bagram’s runway 03 at 15:30 local time and was climbing through 1,200 feet when its nose rose sharply. The aircraft then stalled, banked right, and leveled off just before impact with the ground; the whole aircraft exploded into a large fireball, almost damaging the vehicles nearby.
The crash site was off the end of runway 03, within the perimeter of the airfield. All seven crew members, all of whom were U.S. citizens, died in the crash: four pilots, two mechanics, and a loadmaster. No one on the ground was injured.
It is worth noting that at the time of the crash, a thunderstorm was in the vicinity of Bagram and the wind changed direction by 120° during one hour commencing approximately 35 minutes before the crash. A dashboard camera on a car in the vicinity of the runway end recorded the crash, which shows the aircraft pitching up, falling into a stall, and then sharply banking right after a slight bank to the left, indicating asymmetrical lift. The plane then righted itself and then crashed at a shallow angle on the ground. CNN stated that a government official speaking on the condition of anonymity confirmed the video’s authenticity.
The crash of National Airlines Flight 102 was a tragic event that resulted in the loss of seven lives. It serves as a reminder of the importance of proper cargo loading procedures and the potential consequences of disregarding them.