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 Post subject: The Talawa tragedy - The Antonov 26 crashed on 30 Mar 2000
 Post Posted: Wed Aug 03, 2005 3:03 am 
The Talawa tragedy

@ Sunday Leader

"May day, May day, prepare for emergency landing!" the captain of the Alpha November flight 26 told the Anuradhapura communication tower after the flight dropped to an altitude of 1,500 feet.

The Antonov 26 crashed at Talawa nine and half miles off Anurdhapura air base after taking off from Palaly. Forty persons including the four crew members died. It was the third air crash within the space of ten days.

Earlier an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) crashed at Palaly air-base, the next crash was the Bangkok-Colombo cargo flight carrying six Ukrainian crew members and the last was the Antonov-26 chartered by the air force from the Lion Air to ferry troops to and from Palaly.

The Alpha November flight, at the time of the crash, was carrying 23 military personnel, 11 naval ratings, one policeman and four crew members. The dead included four junior officers going home on leave.

The ill-fated flight took off around 1150 hours from the Palaly airfield and the captain D. Alexander maintained an altitude of 11,000 feet a few minutes after take off. The air force chartered the flight from Lion Air after the airline company suspended flights between Colombo and Jaffna after one of its planes carrying 54 civilian passengers mysteriously went down off the coast of Mannar in 1998.

The flight-26 was usually used to ferry civilians from Palaly to Colombo and Colombo to Palaly. But since the flight was not equipped with an anti-missile mechanism and to prevent civilians being killed by Tigers’ SAM missiles, the air force stopped ferrying passengers except transporting security personnel.

Alexander, a veteran, after dropping the flight to an altitude of 3,000, noticed the warning signals. The signals indicated that the left engine was malfunctioning. Within the next few seconds the scene inside the flight turned into drama as the flight began to tremble as if it was going through air-pockets.

Alexander and his co-pilot desperately attempted to control the shuddering aircraft and informed the Anuradhapura tower of the emergency, "May day, this the captain of Alpha November 26, the left engine is on fire, preparing for emergency landing."

The controllers immediately radioed the zonal commander of the situation. The commander ordered fire engines to rush to the tarmac and ordered his ground flight handlers to prepare for an emergency landing.

The ground handlers cleared the runway for emergency landing and waited anxiously. But just a second after the pilot sounded alarm bells, the Alpha November disappeared off the radar screen of the Anuradhapura base.

The flight had crashed just nine miles off Anuradhpura base killing all passengers instantly. The flight crashed in a field sending thick black smoke into air. Three farmers including a woman who were plowing the land witnessed the flight descending with coils of black smoke emanating from the tail. Within the next few seconds the plane crashed which was followed by three huge explosions due to the fuel tanks catching fire.

When rescue workers trudged through the field, some of the bodies of the victims were burnt beyond recognition. The air force’s technical experts said even if one engine was on fire, the flight had the chances of making an emergency landing with one engine. But some other sources said the pilot could not have made the emergency landing due to the heavy load of passengers.

Air Force Commander Air Marshall Jayalath Weerakody appointed a three member committee to probe the crash which is attributed to a technical error. But the team appointed to probe will question the eyewitnesses and the ground handling staff of the Palaly air base as to whether a human error caused the tragedy.

The tragedy occurred at a time when the government troops are fighting the Tiger rebels who attacked several coastal military detachments east of Vadamarachchi in an operation code named Unceasing Waves III in the Jaffna peninsula.

Plane carrying 36 soldiers crashes
[30 Mar 2000] / PRIU

An airforce Antonov AN-26 aircraft carrying 36 security forces personnel and 4 crew members crashed today near the northern town of Talava, 9km outside of Anuradhapura, killing all on board.

Responding swiftly to news of the tragedy, President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga issued a statement of condolence to the relatives of the deceased this afternoon, in which she noted the bravery and significant contribution made by the army forces personnel who lost their lives.

According to officials, the plane was ferrying 23 army, 11 navy and 2 police personnel from Palaly to Colombo to attend funerals of colleagues and relatives killed in recent fighting in the Jaffna peninsula.

Initial reports suggest that the crash – the second involving an Antonov aircraft this week – was due to a technical fault occurring in one of the aircraft’s engines.

Officials said the pilot had reported a fire in one engine shortly before the plane crashed.

An airforce rescue team sent an investigative team to the site of the crash to determine the cause of the crash found the wreckage still in flames.

An investigation is stillunderway into the cause of last week's incident involving an Antonov AN-12 aircraft, which crashed as it made its third attempt to land at Sri Lanka's busy Bandranaike International Airport.

Last week's crash killed six crew members and three people on the ground

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