Wednesday, 25 May 2022

Remembering China Airlines flight 611

A China Airlines Boeing 747-200 which broke up in midair, was later found to be the result of a tail strike 20 years before.

CHINA AIRLINES BOEING 747-409 B-18205 (MSN 28712)

China Airlines 611 was a regular, scheduled flight between Taipei-Chiang Kai Shek International Airport (TPE/RCTP), Taiwan and Hong Kong-Chek Lap Kok International Airport (HKG/VHHH), Hong Kong. On the 25th May 2002 the aircraft crashed into the Taiwan Strait, which separates the island of Taiwan from mainland China, due to metal fatigue in the fuselage. This accident killed all 225 people onboard the aircraft, including 206 passengers and 19 crew members. On the 7th February 1980, the aircraft suffered a tail strike occurrence in Hong Kong. The aircraft was ferried back to Taiwan on the same day un-pressurized and a temporary repair was conducted the day after. A permanent repair was conducted from the 23rd May through to the 26th May 1980. The permanent repair of the tail strike was not accomplished in accordance with the Boeing SRM, in that the area of damaged skin in Section 46 was not removed (trimmed) and the repair doubler did not extend sufficiently beyond the entire damaged area to restore the structural strength.

The Boeing 747-209B that was operating on the route was the only remaining aircraft of this type in the fleet, as the others had been converted to freighters operating for the cargo division of China Airlines. The 747 was actually operating its last commercial flight for China Airlines, and had been sold to Orient Thai Airlines, a charter airline based in Bangkok, Thailand. The aircraft was to return to Taipei after the flight to Hong Kong, and would then be under the control of Orient Thai Airlines. This, unfortunately did not happen.

At 14:38 Taipei Delivery cleared Flight 611 to Hong Kong: The gate closed around 14:50, ten minutes after the scheduled departure time and the crew requested ground start and pushback from stand B2.  
At 14:57 pushback was completed and the aircraft taxied to runway 06. Ten minutes later the aircraft had taxied into position and was cleared for take off. While climbing through 1600 feet the crew contacted Taipei Approach and received clearance to climb to and maintain FL260 and proceed direct to Chali. At 15.16, while climbing through FL187, Dynasty 611 contacted Taipei Control. The Flight was cleared to climb and maintain FL350. Some 13 minutes later, while approaching 35,000 feet, the aircraft disappeared off radar screens. Wreckage and bodies were found at sea, about 45 km Northeast off the Penghu islands. The flight probably disintegrated at high altitude since other debris was found near Changhua, about 45 kilometers from the crash site.

Since this accident happened in busy airspace, other nearby aircraft could see the crash site, and reported it to authorities. At 18:10, first responders were on scene and had found the remains of some victims. The governments of the People's Republic of China (mainland China) and the Republic of China (Taiwan) cooperated on this search, and this certainly did expedite the process of identifying the victims. China Airlines also requested that relatives of victims send blood samples to laboratories to help with victim identification. To date, 175 of the 225 victims' remains have been identified.

Aircraft Information:
Airline: China Airlines
Code: CI/CAL
Aircraft: Boeing 747-209B
Registration: B-18255
Serial Number: 21843
Engines: 4 Pratt & Whitney JT9D-7AW
First Flew: 16/07/1979
Age: 22 Yrs 11 Mts

Aircraft History:
31/07/1979 China Airlines B-1866  
01/01/1999 China Airlines B-18255

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