Newly released findings reveal why a Czech built twin-engine Let L-410 Turbolet passenger plane mysteriously crashed into a house on approach to Bandundu Airport (FDU) last August 25, killing the crew and 19 passengers. The flight had originated from Kinshasa International Airport (FIH), in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
According to a report in the London Daily Mail on Friday, October 22, investigators have released their determination on October 21, reported in the Paris newspaper "Jeune Afrique", which stated, "According to the inquiry report and the testimony of the only survivor, the crash happened because of a panic sparked by the escape of a crocodile hidden in a sports bag. One of the passengers had hidden the animal, which he planned to sell, in a big sports bag, from which the reptile escaped as the plane began its descent into Bandundu. The terrified air hostess hurried towards the cockpit, followed by the passengers."
When the passengers panicked, stampeding toward the front of the light plane, they caused a load imbalance that 62-year-old Belgium pilot Danny Philemotte and British first officer Chris Wilson, age 39, were unable to correct.
Witnesses at the crash site later hacked the animal to death with machetes.
While the accident sounds like a screenplay variation of the horror movie, "Snakes on a plane", but with a reptile on steroids replacing the snakes, this is not the first time that animals have caused danger, both in the air, and on the ground.
Bird strikes (BASH), such as the one that caused US Airways flight 1549, to ditch in the Hudson River on January 15, 2009, are not uncommon. On July 2, 2010, maggots dropped from the overhead bin aboard US Airways flight 1537 headed for Charlotte, while the aircraft was getting into position for takeoff from Atlanta, forcing it to return to the gate. On April 16, 2009, four out of 12 Stimson's pythons, a non-poisonous snake, escaped from a cargo hold aboard a Qantas Airways flight, before it took off from Alice Springs to Melbourne, causing the aircraft to be grounded. However, crocodiles on the loose are not a usual flying hazard.
Development of the L-410 was started in the 1960s by the Czechoslovak aircraft manufacturer Let Kunovice. The L-410 first flew in 1969, and with more than 1100 produced, is the most popular 19-seat plane in history. As of August 2006, 313 L-410 aircraft remain in airline service. Around 125 airlines operate this equipment worldwide. It is not in commercial use in the United States. The plane has a cruising speed of 227 mph, a range of 857 miles, and a service ceiling of 20,725 feet.