LAST_UPDATESun, 22 Jul 2018 9am

Previous Air Disasters In Malaysian History

 The recent AirAsia Flight QZ8501 disaster was not the first Malaysian-linked air transport disaster.

However with triple-whammies hitting Malaysia alone - and incredulous disbelief from the Prime Minister, the Transport Minister and to the members of the public, it seems that Malaysian aviation might be doomed for now. Below, we take a look at previous air disasters in Malaysian aircraft and airspace history.

Malaysia Airline Flight 653 (MH653).

On 4 December 1977, the domestic flight from Penang to Kuala Lumpur on a Boeing 737-200 crashed at Tanjung Kupang, Johor reportedly because of the demands of on-board hijackers to fly to Singapore. All hands were lost, with 93 passengers and 7 crew members. Unsolved to this day, experts claim that the flight was hijacked once it had reached cruising altitude where the crew reported they had an ‘unidentified hijacker’. Subang Airport prepared for an emergency landing but the crew reported minutes later, “We’re now proceeding to Singapore. Good Night.” Information from the aircraft’s black box revealed that gunshots were heard, and investigators concluded that both the pilot and co-pilot were fatally shot, leaving the plane flying in unsafe hands. That evening, residents of Kampung Tanjung Kupang reported hearing a massive explosion and seeing burning debris which was the wreckage of flight MH653. Passengers include the Malaysian Agricultural Minister, Dato' Ali Haji Ahmad; Public Works Department Head, Dato' Mahfuz Khalid; and Cuban Ambassador to Japan, Mario García Incháustegui. CNN reported that the hijackers were members of the Japanese Red Army, but this has not been confirmed.

Malaysia Airlines Fokker 50 Malaysia Airlines Fokker 50

Malaysia Airlines Flight 2133 (MH2133) was a flight taking place from Kota Kinabalu to Tawau Airport. The Fokker 50 plane crash was due to pilot error, when the aircraft landed 500 metres away from Tawau Airport’s runway and crashed into a shanty town, causing the deaths of 34 people including the 2 pilots and 2 crew members. Only 19 people survived.

Flight Double Six crash took place on 6 June 1976, in a flight from Labuan to Kota Kinabalu airport. Notable deaths include the Chief Minister of Sabah Tun Fuad Stephens, 3 State Ministers, and the Secretary of State for Finance, the Director of Economic Planning Unit and Tun Fuad's eldest son Johari Stephens. The report on the crash has remained classified until now, and an Australian investigation has ruled out weather or mechanical failure. Political implications were hinted and the next day, Deputy Chief Minister Harris Salleh was instated as Chief Minister. The Double Six monument located at Sabah commemorates this tragedy.

Japanese Airlines Flight 715 was flying from Hong Kong to Subang Airport on 27 September, 1977 when on its approach to landing, the aircraft descended below the Minimum Descent Altitude (MDA) of 750 feet where at 300 feet it crashed into a hill 6 kilometres away. It broke upon impact with no fires, but the accident claimed 34 lives out of 77 passengers. Below is a graph summarizing about MDAs:

Singapore Airlines Flight 117 was a flight from Subang Airport to Singapore. However, on 26 March 1991, 4 Pakistani hijackers of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) took control of the plane and demanded the release of Prime Minister of Pakistan Benazir Bhutto’s husband, Asiz Zardari (later becoming Pakistan’s President) and other PPP members from jail. Desperate, they gave a last 5-minute deadline, and threatened to kill one passenger every 10 minutes. With 3 minutes left, the Singapore Armed Forces Commando Formation (SAF-CDO FN) forcibly boarded the plane, and managed to kill all hijackers with no loss of life of hostages. While the hostage crisis lasted for the better part of the night, the Special Forces operation lasted only 30 seconds.

Malaysian Airline System Flight 684 flew from Singapore to Malaysia on an Airbus A300. On 18 December 1983, the flight crashed at Subang Airport. However, no fatalities were reported. The crash was due to poor runway visibility (450m) because of the rain, yet clearance was given for landing despite official airline policy of requiring at least 800m visibility for landings. As the pilot took over manual control of the plane, the altimeter gave its alarm and the plane knocked over trees 2km away from the runway causing it to slip and slide until halted by a stream embankment. It was still 1.2km short of the runway. Besides attempting to land due to the poor visibility, the pilot had erred in not monitoring the descent rate during the landing approach.

MH17 - The infamous flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, this is the deadliest airliner shoot down in history and the deadliest involving a Boeing 777 which crashed on 17 July 2014, with 298 deaths. Possessing Soviet era BUK Surface to Air Missiles, the crash at Donetsk occurred in the midst of Ukraine’s war with rebels. The pro-Russian rebels had mistakenly shot down the plane thinking it was an illegal Ukrainian plane flying over their airspace. Despite the no-fly zone, airliners are allowed to fly at an altitude above the no-fly zone. Hours after the incident, the airways above Ukraine immediately cleared as aircraft steered clear of the hotspot. International condemnation poured on the leader of the Ukrainian rebels – and Russia – but a Dutch investigating team will only give its report by the middle of next year.

Flight MH370 was flying from KLIA to Beijing, when less than an hour after take-off it lost contact and disappeared from air traffic controllers’ radar screens. Still being tracked by Malaysian military radar, the plane deviated from its course, crossed the Malaysian Peninsula and continued straight on to the Andaman Sea. The Boeing 777 gave neither distress signal, nor technical or weather problems and with it, 239 passengers and crew were mysteriously lost. A multinational search effort (the largest and most expensive in aviation history) is still underway trying to locate the plane or its debris, somewhere within the depths of the Indian Ocean.

Either due to pilot error, technical failure, inclement weather, hijacks or separatists’ missile strikes, Malaysian aircraft is still braving on despite the setbacks. For every accident, there are thousands more successful flights that has landed safely. 2015 remains a challenge for national carrier Malaysia Airlines as they struggle to keep afloat in business down to decreasing demand to fly on their planes. And with the unfortunate, yet coincidental flight of AirAsia, also a Malaysian owned venture - is aviation really doomed in Malaysia?

Malaysian Digest