Event Details

Title:In-flight explosion, Report on the accident to Boeing 747-121, N739PA at Lockerbie, Dumfriesshire, Scotland on 21 December 1988 (Recommended)
Micro summary:A bomb destroyed this Boeing 747-121 in cruise.
Event Time:1988-12-21 at 2103 UTC
File Name:1988-12-21-UK.pdf
Publishing Agency:Aircraft Accident Investigation Board (AAIB)
Publishing Country:United Kingdom
Report number:2/90 (EW/C1094)
Site of event:Lockerbie, Scotland
Latitude/Longitude:N5507' W00321'
Departure:London Heathrow Airport, London, England, United Kingdom
Destination:John F. Kennedy International Airport, New York, USA
Airplane Type(s):Boeing 747-121
Flight Phase:Cruise
Operator(s):Pan American World Airways
Type of flight:Revenue
Serious Injuries:5
Other Injuries:11 fatalities on ground
Executive Summary:The aircraft, Flight PA103 from London Heathrow to New York, had been in level cruising flight at flight level 310 (31,000 feet) for approximately seven minutes when the last secondary radar return was received just before 19.03 hrs. The radar then showed multiple primary returns fanning out downwind. Major portions of the wreckage of the aircraft fell on the town of Lockerbie with other large parts landing in the countryside to the east of the town. Lighter debris from the aircraft was strewn along two trails, the longest of which extended some 130 kilometres to the east coast of England. Within a few days items of wreckage were retrieved upon which forensic scientists found conclusive evidence of a detonating high explosive. The airport security and criminal aspects of the accident are the subject of a separate investigation and are not covered in this report which concentrates on the technical aspects of the disintegration of the aircraft.

The report concludes that the detonation of an improvised explosive device led directly to the destruction of the aircraft with the loss of all 259 persons on board and 11 of the residents of the town of Lockerbie. Five recommendations are made of which four concern flight recorders, including the funding of a study to devise methods of recording violent positive and negative pressure pulses associated with explosions. The final recommendation is that Airworthiness Authorities and aircraft manufacturers undertake a systematic study with a view to identifying measures that might mitigate the effects of explosive devices and improve the tolerance of the aircraft's structure and systems to explosive damage.
Learning Keywords:Operations - Terrorism/Violence
Consequence - Hull Loss
Close match:Cabin explosion and fire during landing roll at Hua-Lien, Taiwan, involving a MD-90-30 on August 24, 2000
Explosion in-flight, Trans World Airlines, Inc., Boeing 707-331B, N8734, in The Ionian Sea, September 8, 1974
Ethiopian Airlines B767 (ET-AIZ) Aircraft Accident In the Federal Islamic Republic of the Comoros, in the Indian Ocean on November 23, 1996


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