How a Twin Otter accident that day in 1993 prompted operational restructuring at Widerøe

Exactly 29 years ago today, on October 27, 1993, Widerøe Flight 744 crashed near Berg in Overhalla, killing six of 19 passengers and crew. The accident prompted the Norwegian airline to reorganize its aircraft operating division.

The aircraft involved in the accident was a 19-year-old de Havilland Canada DHC-6-300 ‘Twin Otter’ registered LN-BNM. At the time of the accident, the aircraft had accumulated 40,453 flight hours and met all service requirements.

Both pilots were experienced and knew the airport

The captain was Jan Bjørstad, 43, an experienced pilot who had landed at Namsos Airport (OSY) 13 times in the year before the accident. The flight’s first officer was 34-year-old Trond Hamre, who had a total of 6,354 flying hours, including 1,356 on the Twin Otter. In the previous 12 months, he had landed at Namsos airport a total of 27 times.


Image: GC Map

Widerøe Flight 744 was a scheduled domestic flight from Trondheim-Værnes Airport (TRD) to Rørvik Airport (RVK) with a stopover in Namsos. At Trondheim, 300 pounds (136 kg) of cargo was loaded onto the Twin Otter, along with 17 passengers. The flight north to Namsos was estimated to be only 35 minutes.

A Twin Otter has a maximum takeoff weight of 12,511 lb (5,675 kg). When the plane took off, it was near maximum, at 12,040 pounds (5,641 kg). When loading the plane, the captain unfortunately made a mistake by not moving the passengers to seats that would have better distributed the weight.

The plane took off from Trondheim airport at 6:37 p.m. and climbed to an altitude of 5,000 feet. The captain decided that his descent would be first to 4,000 feet and then to 3,000 feet before turning towards localizer 255.

The aircraft would then descend to 2,100 feet towards the Namsos beacon. As the plane began its descent, it received a weather update that the wind was now blowing at 29 mph (47 km/h), with gusts of up to 46 mph (74 km/h).

Because the plan was to land on Runway 26 directly into wind, the pilots decided to increase the aircraft’s altitude for the descent. At 7:05 p.m. local time, the co-pilot announced that he had completed the landing checklist. This then prompted the Captain to begin his approach checklist for the flight.

Pilots didn’t realize how low they were

At 7:15 p.m. the aircraft passed over the Namsos beacon at an altitude of 2,100 feet, with the first officer confirming that he had the runway in sight. At 7:16 p.m., with a height of 500 feet, the captain said: “you don’t have to go any further.”

Seconds later, the plane struck some trees and crashed into a hill. Realizing what had happened, air traffic control (ATC) launched a rescue operation. When rescuers arrived at the scene, they found the two pilots dead, along with four of the passengers. All other passengers were seriously injured and required treatment.

The weather at the time of the accident was windy, with heavy rain and limited visibility. As this was not required, the Twin Otter was not equipped with a ground proximity warning system (GPWS) or a flight data recorder (FDR). However, it had a cockpit voice recorder (CVR), although this was also not required.

The investigation into the crash of Widerøe Flight 744

The Norwegian aviation authorities undertook a thorough investigation and determined that the following factors contributed to the accident:

  1. Widerøe had not implemented operational procedures that all pilots were required to follow.
  2. A lack of calls from the pilots during the approach.
  3. The crew made the final turn to the airport, of course.
  4. The pilot flying the aircraft continued to fly a visual approach in the dark without any reference to terrain.
  5. The crew did not know how far they were from the ground.

After the accident, Widerøe revised its procedures and grounded ten pilots who did not follow the new rules. As part of this operational restructuring, it also reorganized its reporting systems and its quality assurance department.

Source: Aviation Safety Network

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