American Airlines 737 - Crash Landing in Jamaica

Today an American Airlines Boeing 737-823 (WL) (N977AN) crash landed at Kingston-Norman Manley International Airport (KIN/MKJP), Jamaica. Flight AAL331 was bound from Miami International Airport, FL (MIA/KMIA).
On landing, the plane overshot the runway in a heavy rainstorm, slid into an airport fence and stopped on a road. All 6 crew and 140 passengers survived, at least 40 have been injured. The plane was substantially damaged. The fuselage was cracked, nose section damaged, one engine and wing detached from the aircraft.

Video by CBS

Source: FAA

5 Responses to “American Airlines 737 - Crash Landing in Jamaica”

  1. 1 Daney D'Andrea Dec 25th, 2009 at 6:48 pm

    AA Jamaica crash: Although I am aware that it is irresponsible to speculate on a cause before all the facts are know, I do however feel that, at least on forums like this one, it is ok to speculate based on known facts. Here is what’s known. 1) 15Kt. winds out of NNE. 2) Heavy rain at night on a non-grooved runway. 3) Pilots near the end of their 12-hour max. on-duty time. 4) Plane fully loaded with passengers and probably heavier on fuel than domestic flights. 5) Pilots had not flown much in previous weeks. 6) Plane touched down very far down runway 12. 7) Plane landed hard. Based on what’s known I think you can make the follow deductions. I believe the tail winds played a very significant role in this crash. Ground speeds would have been 20-30Kts fast than pilots are used to. This along with a nighttime wet runway would have made it easy to misjudge the point of touchdown. Glide slope would have been kept in check on approach but near the ground pilots take over and visually fly the plane. Things would look much different than they normally do especially taking night, rain and fatigue issues into consideration. A go around would have been resisted because of a desire to get the plane on the ground due to bad conditions and current preferred patterns at that airport. As a pilot who has made down wind landings I can tell you that it is very difficult to hit your spot maintaining glide slope without stalling the plane. You have to descend at a quicker rate to maintain glide slope and touch down speeds to hit your spot. This is not a comfortable normal feeling to the pilots. Things happen so much quicker down wind and pilots are not used to this type of approach. Extra weight, rain, night, and fatigue and stress of bad conditions add to the level of difficulty of this down wind landing. I would not be surprised if the black boxes show the plane did or almost did “stall” just before touch down. That would explain the heavy landing reported. Higher ground speeds and weights with reduced runway length due to mid runway touch down point along with wet non-grooved runway made this crash, at this point, inevitable. At the end of the day there will be several factors pinpointed at fault (as there always is), however the primary cause will be pilot error for the following reasons: a) not going to an alternate airport given conditions at primary b) having proceeded to primary not asking to land from the east. c) having proceeded downwind failing to abort the approach and or landing prior to touchdown d) having proceeded downwind having misjudged the point of landing and not maintaining proper glide slope, approach speeds and touchdown point. To all the pilots I ask for your comments

  2. 2 kc Jan 8th, 2010 at 5:09 am

    not a pilot but from info from investigations so far,,it seems the pilot was given a better option to land which he decided to ignore….Had he taken the advice of the tower people he would have landed in a head wind,which would have aided his deceleration….so far it looks like its all on the pilot

  3. 3 sAx Jan 17th, 2010 at 4:31 pm

    Very informative Daney. Thanks very much!

  4. 4 Sherif Gaber, Airline Captain Jan 24th, 2010 at 6:15 pm

    As an Airline Captain for more than 35 years , whenever I experienced an emergecny sitiuation I used to circulate my experience to everybody concerned , to learn from it , and avoid my mistakes I have done .

  5. 5 Paul Grant (737 Airline Training Captain) Aug 2nd, 2011 at 7:32 am

    Daney, I agree with you that “it is irresponsible to speculate on a cause before all the facts are known”.

    However, I am really concerned about some of your comments, supposedly from “a pilot” though I do not know in what field you operate - airline or GA.

    Plane loaded with passengers and heavier on fuel thanon domestic flights - Irrelevant as all crew will be able to operate the aircraft at Max Landing Weight, or they should not be certified. Miami to Jamaica in a 737-800NG is not a long flight.

    I accept your comments about the weather at the time as I have no other knowledge of that fact.

    Whilst, if available, a pilot would use a precision approach such as ILS, if and when transitioning to visual flight, they will then use a PAPI or VASI visual guidance system to the touch down area.

    If by 500 feet aal at the latest if the approach is unstable then a Go-Around should be inititated.

    If it became obvious that the landing would be long (well into the runway) then a Go-Around must be initiated.

    Your comment “A go around would have been resisted because of a desire to get the plane on the ground due to bad conditions…..” Is the very best example of “Get home Itis” An immensely dangerous comment to have made. I cannot believe that comment from a pilot.

    Your comment, “As a pilot who has made down wind landings I can tell you that it is very difficult to hit your spot maintaining glide slope without stalling the plane.” Goes beyond belief. You do not fly an airliner like that. You will always maintain the appropriate Vref + Approach increment. A tailwind will affect the groundspeed and resultant descent rate which must be accounted for. The max certified tailwind for the 737-800NG is usually 15 kts. If the tailwind at ground level was reported greater than that, then the crew should not have attempted a landing. To do so, with an accident as a result including injuries will make it a criminal offence.

    I will not comment on the accident without true facts, though I have my personal opinion, but Daney, your comments are grossly inaccurate, and I suspect that you are not a pilot of Public Transport aircraft, and as such shold not make factually incorrect statements as you made above.