Korean Air Flight 803

On 27 July 1989, Korean Air Flight 803, a DC-10 crashed while attempting to land in Tripoli, Libya. 75 of the 199 passengers and crew on board plus 4 people on the ground were killed in the crash. The crash was the deadliest aviation disaster to occur in Libya at the time.[1]

Korean Air Flight 803
Korean Air DC-10-30 HL7328.jpg
HL7328, the aircraft involved in the accident
Date27 July 1989 (1989-07-27)
SummaryPilot error in low visibility leading to controlled flight into terrain
SiteOn approach to runway 27 at Tripoli International Airport in Tripoli, Libya
Total fatalities79
Aircraft typeMcDonnell Douglas DC-10-30
OperatorKorean Air
IATA flight No.KE803
ICAO flight No.KAL803
Call signKOREAN AIR 803
Flight originSeoul-Gimpo International Airport
1st stopoverBangkok-Don Mueang International Airport
Last stopoverJeddah-King Abdulaziz International Airport
DestinationTripoli International Airport
Ground casualties
Ground fatalities4

Aircraft and crewEdit

The aircraft involved was a McDonnell Douglas DC-10-30 (serial number 47887 and line number 125). It was built in 1973 and made its first flight on 17 September. During the test period, the aircraft was registered N54634. The aircraft was powered by three General Electric CF6-50C2 turbofan engines. In 1974, the aircraft was sold to Air Siam, and it was registered in Thailand as HS-VGE on 25 November. In 1977, the airliner was sold to Korean Air (which at the time was Korean Air Lines), and received the Korean registration HL7328 on 25 February 1977.[2][3] The aircraft had 49,025 flight hours and 11,440 take-off and landing cycles.[4] The captain was Kim Ho-jung (54), the first officer was Choi Jae-hong (57), and the flight engineer was Hyun Gyu-hwan (53).[5]


Flight 803 was a scheduled International passenger service from Seoul, South Korea to Tripoli, Libya with intermediate stops in Bangkok, Thailand and Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. There were a total of 18 crew members and 181 passengers, mostly South Korean workers, who were returning to Libya for construction work after their home leave.[6] The weather at the time of the crash consisted of heavy fog and visibility was between 100 and 800 feet (30 and 244 m).[1] Nevertheless, in such circumstances, the flight crew decided to continue the approach. On approach to runway 27, the DC-10 dropped below the glide path, then at 7:05 (according to other data - 7:30), it crashed into two buildings, broke into three sections, and burst into flames.[7] The crash site was in an orchard 1.5 miles (2.4 km; 1.3 nmi) short of runway 27. 75 people (72 passengers and 3 crew members) died in the crash, in addition to four people on the ground.[1][8][9]

Daewoo and Donga had multiple South Korean employees on board.[10]

There were 189 South Koreans, seven Libyans, and three Japanese nationals.[9][11]

Nationality Passengers Crew Total
South Korea 171 18 189
Libya 7 0 7
Japan 3 0 3
Total 181 18 199


At the direction of the Libyan authorities, French specialists were invited to investigate the causes of the accident. The flight recorders were sent to France. American representatives, including the aircraft manufacturer, were not allowed into Libya at the time.[12]


After the crash, Flight 803's captain Kim Ho-jung was quoted as saying - "The airport was shrouded in dense fog and visibility was poor when I approached. I lost contact with the control tower for 15 minutes before the crash."[9] Libya's official news agency JANA reported that a Soviet airliner one hour before Flight 803 had rerouted to Malta rather than land in the fog.[10] Also the instrument landing system at Tripoli International Airport wasn't working at the time of the crash.[13]

A Libyan court found the captain and first officer guilty of neglect in December 1990. They were given prison sentences of two years and eighteen months respectively. In the case of the first officer the sentence was suspended.[14]


The cause of the crash was determined to be pilot error in attempting a descent below decision height without the runway environment in sight.[15]


  1. ^ a b c Ranter, Harro. "Aircraft accident McDonnell Douglas DC-10-30 HL7328 Tripoli". aviation-safety.net. Aviation Safety Network.
  2. ^ "HL7328 Korean Air Lines McDonnell Douglas DC-10-30 - cn 47887 / ln 125". planespotters.net. Retrieved 30 December 2016.
  3. ^ "Korean Air HL7328 (McDonnell Douglas DC-10 - MSN 47887) (Ex HS-VGE)". www.airfleets.net. Airfleets aviation. Retrieved 21 January 2020.
  4. ^ "Crash of a Douglas DC-10 in Tripoli: 81 killed". B3A Aircraft Accidents Archives. Archived from the original on 30 December 2016. Retrieved 30 December 2016.
  5. ^ "신문박물관 1989년 국내 10대 사건" [Newspaper Museum 1989 Korea's Top Ten Events] (in Korean). Archived from the original on 4 March 2016.
  6. ^ Kwang-on, Park (27 July 1989). "대한항공 DC-10여객기 리비아 트리폴리공항 상공서 추락[박광온]" [Korean Air DC-10 plane crashed over Libya's Tripoli Airport]. MBC Newsdesk (in Korean). Retrieved 10 September 2020.
  7. ^ "75 Die in Libya in Korean DC-10 Crash". The New York Times. Associated Press. 28 July 1989. ISSN 0362-4331.
  8. ^ "LIBYA CRASH". Flight International. 12 August 1989. p. 9. Archived from the original on 22 May 2011. Retrieved 19 April 2014.
  9. ^ a b c "Korean Jet Crashes In Libya, Killing 82". The Victoria Advocate. Associated Press. pp. 1A, 12A. Retrieved 19 April 2014 – via Google News.
  10. ^ a b "Korean air crash in Libya". The Prescott Courier. Associated Press. 27 July 1989. p. 2A – via Google News.
  11. ^ Sun-myeong, Lee (27 July 1989). "대한항공 사고 대책 본부 표정" [Korean Air Accident Countermeasure Headquarters Expression]. MBC Newsdesk (in Korean). Retrieved 10 September 2020.
  12. ^ "Libyans bar DC-10 crash team". Flight International. 26 August 1989. p. 9. Archived from the original on 19 April 2014. Retrieved 19 April 2014.
  13. ^ "Tripoli's landing system not working". The Tuscaloosa News. Associated Press. 29 July 1989. p. 2 – via Google News.
  14. ^ "Crash role gets pilot two years". The Bulletin. Bend, Oregon. Associated Press. 21 December 1990. p. A4 – via Google News.
  15. ^ "Accident Database: Accident Synopsis 07271989". Airdisaster.com. Archived from the original on 3 January 2009. Retrieved 19 April 2014.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)