Santa Bárbara Airlines Flight
518 was an ATR 42-300 twin-turboprop aircraft, registration YV1449, operating
as a scheduled domestic flight from Mérida, Venezuela to Caracas that crashed
into the side of a mountain on 21 February 2008, shortly after
There were 43 passengers on board, with a crew of
two pilots and a flight attendant. The wreckage was discovered a
day later with no survivors. It is the highest death toll of any
aviation accident involving an ATR 42 ever.
university and tourist town located high in the Andes mountains, is surrounded by higher terrain, with
night flights prohibited at the nearby Alberto
On 21 February 2008, Flight 518 was the
last scheduled flight out of the airport, departing at about 17:00
local time.Shortly after take-off, the ATR 42-300 twin-turboprop
slammed into a sheer rock wall called "Indian Face" (Spanish:
La Cara del Indio
). No distress calls were received from
the aircraft prior to impact.
Antonio Rivero, national director of civil defense, said rescuers
had identified the site of the crash in the south-western state of
. Unión Radio
cited civil defense regional
chief, Gerardo Rojas, as saying that rescue crews were racing to
the poorly-accessible crash site in the Andes Mountains. Mountain
villagers reported hearing a huge noise they thought could be a
crash soon after the disappearance and loss of contact with Flight
518. According to local police, the wreckage of the aircraft was
located at Páramo de
, in the sector of Collao del Cóndor, Páramo Piedra
Blanca, near the Laguna de la Perlada. The search operation
was conducted from the regional hub city of Barinas in western Venezuela.
services said that the twin-turboprop
ATR 42 crashed from the mountain city of
Mérida after take-off.
Searchers spotted the
wreckage of the plane carrying 43 passengers and 3 crew members in
the mountains of western Venezuela on Friday, 22 February.
Fire-fighter Sgt. Jhonny Paz said officials believed there were no
survivors and were sending a helicopter to the site of the accident
after a refueling stop. "The impact was direct. The aircraft is
practically pulverized," he told the Venezuelan television station
. At the national civil
aeronautical institute, General Ramón Vinas confirmed that, "by the
type of impact, we presume that there are no survivors".
As search-and-rescue activities were underway, local media
published the passenger list of Sánta Barbara Airlines Flight 518.
the victims were Venezuelan; three Colombians and an American also died in the
passengers were an anti-Chávez
political analyst, Italo Luongo, and Alexander Quintero, the mayor
of Mucuchíes, a small town in the state of Mérida, Quintero's
11-year old son, and two relatives of federal under-minister for
civic security Tarek El
Vivian Guarch, a 53-year-old United States
citizen and executive for Stanford Financial Group Bank
in the crash.
Family members and friends of the victims created a website with
information related to the crash and its victims.
The Cockpit Voice Recorder
(black box) was successfully recovered from the wreckage.
Preliminary information released on 28 July 2008, indicates the
crew departed Mérida with inoperative navigation equipment and
subsequently became disoriented in the mountainous terrain
surrounding the airport, crashing into the side of a mountain while
trying to determine their location.
Cockpit voice recording
The following is an English translation of the CVR transcript
(original in Spanish):
TWR: Tower / CAM 1: Captain / CAM 2: Copilot / ROI116: Avior
GPWS: Ground Proximity
- CAM 2: Mérida Tower, good afternoon. Santa Barbara 518 is
requesting startup and clearance for proposed flight to Maiquetia,
- TWR: 518, once doors closed startup is approved, altimeter
1018. Be advised a B190 of Avior two minutes ago checked over
- CAM 2: Roger with Avior via Lagunillas. QNH 1018, startup
clearance received and doors closing, and expecting taxi clearance
to runway 24. Santa Barbara 518.
- CAM 1: If possible, keep on the concrete ramp!
- CAM 2: Mérida, Barbara 518 requests 180 turn to stay on the
- CAM 1: If possible, keep on the concrete ramp.
- TWR: Standby for immediate taxi and Avior’s position…
- TWR: Avior 1116 Mérida, position?
- ROI1116: We are 8 miles out, confirming 8 miles outside
Lagunillas, through 110 to 9 thousand feet. No problem, you can
clear the Barbara and we’ll contact you inbound.
- TWR: So we’ll clear for takeoff (BBR 518) while you contact us
- TWR: Barbara 518, expedite your taxi to (runway) 24 and contact
when ready for takeoff.
- CAM 2: Expediting taxi to (runway) 24 and we’ll call when ready
for takeoff. Santa Barbara 518.
- CAM 1: Look at this shit.
- CAM 2: Clearance for Santa Barbara 518.
- TWR: We are still waiting on the clearance.
- CAM 1: It’s going to be a hell this shit. We’ll have to reset
it during flight, what a crap!
- CAM 2: We’ll go visual
- CAM 1: We’ll take off in the dark. Fuck! We didn’t see this
shit! I won’t touch it; these gyros are fucked up again. The other
day we also skipped this and we had to leave them like this.
- TWR: Barbara 518, Maiquetia cleared you to 190, direct airport,
- CAM 2: Maiquetia Center clears Barbara 518 to Maiquetia W8
1-9-0, transponder 1655, Barbara 518 180 ready for departure.
- TWR: Roger, winds 220 at 08, cleared for takeoff.
- CAM 2: Cleared for takeoff Runway 24, Santa Barbara 518.
- CAM 1: We can't see shit; if we can fix it we’ll go visual.
We’ll fix it in flight.
- CAM 1: We’re ready to go; you have the controls if you
- CAM 1: Power set... positive
- CAM 2: Gear up. We’re up
- TWR: Avior 1116. Traffic airborne right now.
- ROI1116: Roger, 1116 is inbound over Lagunillas.
- CAM 1: Roger. And as complementary information from us we’ll be
a bit closer to the northern mountains my friend, so you’ll have a
- ROI1116: Roger my friend, so we’ll keep closer to the southern
- CAM 1: Go ahead.
- CAM 2: Let’s keep white bugs + 10
- CAM 1: The same shit of the other day.
- CAM 2: The units are fucked up.
- CAM 1: The last time was like this, we had to wait until…
- CAM 2: Level at 400 feet
- CAM 1: We’re visual
- CAM 1: Level
- CAM 1: If you want we can start to turn, Denis.
- CAM 1: This way… it’s better
- CAM 1: I passed by here…(Laughs)
- CAM 1: Let’s keep this heading… Ok? And let’s try to keep 141
- CAM 2: Ok.
- CAM 2: And manual...
- CAM 1: turn a bit more to see if this compass works and keep it
- CAM 1: Let it there.
- CAM 1: Denis, a bit more to the right.
- CAM 2: to the right?
- CAM 1: Yes, get to zero six seven (067)
- CAM 2: Zero seven three (073) (GPWS Sounds)
- CAM 1: Denis, Denis (The captain takes control of the
- CAM 2: We’re at 074, aren’t we?
- CAM 2: 360?
- TWR: 518 Airborne 2 9 contact (over) Observatory. Did I clear
you? (GPWS sounds again)
- CAM 2: That’s correct sir (GPWS alarm sounds again)
(GPWS sounds again)
- CAM 2: Aldino, Aldino. Go that way, are we at?
- CAM 2: Aldino, Aldino, we’re at 318 not 17… Aldino?
(GPWS sounds again)
- CAM 2: Aldino, shit we’re at 318.
- CAM 1: What the fuck do you want? Turn to the right?
(GPWS sounds again)
- CAM 2: Aldino take that way!
- CAM 1: Fuck, Denis… For Christ’s sake!
- CAM 2: Aldino let’s turn 360 backwards. We’re going down!
- CAM 2: Ok.
- CAM 1: Denis… For Christ’s sake!
(Stick Shaker Activates)
- CAM 2: Aldino!
- CAM 1: Hold on, hold on.
- CAM 1: Easy Denis, Easy
(Sound of Crash)
(End of the recording)
- Rescuers find Venezuela plane crash black
boxes, Reuters, 24
Feb 2008. Retrieved on 2008-02-28.
- Venezuela begins recovering bodies from Andean
plane crash, The Associated Press, 2008-02-24. Retrieved on
- " Venezuela crash data boxes found."
BBC, 2008-02-23. Retrieved on
518 victims website (in Spanish)
- Transcriben conversación de Caja Negra de vuelo de
Mérida ("Transcript of conversation of Merida flight's black
box", in Spanish)
- CVR audio