Viasa Flight 742 was an international, scheduled passenger flight from Caracas, Venezuela to Miami International Airport with an intermediate stopover in Maracaibo, Venezuela that crashed on 16 March 1969. After taking off on the Maracaibo to Miami leg, the DC-9-30 hit a series of power lines before crashing into the La Trinidad section of Maracaibo. All 84 people on board perished, as well as 71 on the ground.
|Date||16 March 1969|
|Summary||Short runway with faulty temperature sensors, and pilot error due to calculations of incorrect information leading to overloading of aircraft|
|Site||Grano de Oro Airport, Maracaibo, Venezuela |
|Aircraft type||McDonnell Douglas DC-9-32|
|IATA flight No.||VA742|
|ICAO flight No.||VIA742|
|Call sign||Viasa 742|
|Flight origin||Simón Bolívar International Airport, Caracas|
|Stopover||Grano de Oro Airport, Maracaibo|
|Destination||Miami International Airport, Miami, Florida|
The DC-9 involved in the crash was on lease from Avensa and had only been in service for a month. It was only three months old at the time of the accident and was powered by two Pratt & Whitney JT8D-7 turbofan engines.
The first leg of the flight, from Caracas to Maracaibo, carried 57 people; 42 passengers and 10 crew members. The flight crew of the first leg consisted of two captains: Harry Gibson and Emiliano Savelli Maldonado.
The aircraft arrived at Maracaibo at 10:30. There captain Gibson disembarked and captain Maldonado became the pilot in command. The new first officer was Jose Gregorio Rodriguez Silva. 27 more passengers boarded the aircraft, which was loaded with 12,000 kilograms (26,000 lb) of jet fuel.
Flight 742 began its takeoff roll at 12:00. As the DC-9 headed toward Ziruma, it failed to gain altitude, and the plane's left engine struck a power pole. As the plane banked left, a reflector struck the fuel tank, spilling fuel. After hitting another power pole, the plane's left wing was ripped off the plane and the left engine exploded into flames. The plane crashed in a small park in La Trinidad. The impact was so hard that the right engine was torn off the plane and impacted a house.
The cause of the crash was attributed to faulty sensors along the runway and take-off calculations made from erroneous information, which resulted in an aircraft being overloaded by more than 5,000 pounds for the prevailing conditions. Only two days after the crash, Venezuela's Public Works Minister ascribed runway length as a contributing factor in the disaster.
Flight 742 was the first loss of a DC-9-30, and it remains the deadliest accident involving that type of aircraft. It was also the deadliest accident in Venezuela until West Caribbean Airways Flight 708 (operated by a McDonnell Douglas MD-80, the DC-9's successor aircraft) crashed over thirty-six years later. At the time, the crash was the world's deadliest civil air disaster. The fatality total was surpassed in 1971 by All Nippon Airways Flight 58, which killed 162 people after colliding with an F-86 fighter jet.
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