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"Overlooking Runway 25 - Right, at Los Angeles International Airport"

"Too Little Runway

- Too Much Plane"

On The Scene In Tegucigalpa, Honduras

The Tragic Loss of Flight 390

Feature Date: June 10 2008

Event Date: May 30 2008

Countryman & McDaniel

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"Overlooking Runway 25 - Right, at Los Angeles International Airport"

On The Scene --In Tegucigalpa, Honduras

 A 2008 Countryman & McDaniel

Cargo Nightmare Prize Contender

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"Too Little Runway

- Too Much Plane"

The Tragic Loss of Flight 390

TACA Airbus A320

On The Scene

In Tegucigalpa, Honduras

A Cargo Nightmare Prize Contender

The Date: May 30 2008

The Time: 9:45 a.m.

The Place: Tegucigalpa, Honduras

TACA Airbus A320 In Better Days

EI-TAF-1374 (not plane pictured)



Irish Plate: EI- TAF, Series #1374

Built: Jan. 4th 2001


Overall length: 37.57 meter / 123 ft. 3 in.

Height: 11.76 meter / . 38 ft. 7 in.

Fuselage diameter: 3.95 meter / 13 ft.

Maximum cabin width: 3.70 meter / 12 ft. 1 in.

Cabin length: 27.51 meter / 90 ft. 3 in.

Wingspan (geometric): 34.10 meter / 111 ft. 10 in.

Wing area (reference): 122.6 m2 / 1,320 ft2

Wing sweep: (25% chord): 25 degrees

Wheelbase: 12.64 meter / 41 ft. 5 in.

Wheel track: 7.59 meter / 24 ft. 11 in.


Total Orders: 3,745

Total Delivered: 1,917

Total In Service: 1,884


Engines: Two CFM56-5 or IAE V2500

Engine thrust range: 111-120 kN / 22,000-27,000 lb. slst

Typical passenger seating: 150

Range (w/max. passengers): 4,800 (5,700) km. / 2,600 (3,000) nm.

Max. operating Mach number (Mmo): 0.82 Mo.

Bulk hold volume - Standard/option: 37.41 m3 / 1,322 ft3


Maximum ramp weight: 73.9 (77.4) tons / 162.9 (170.6) lbs. x 1000

Maximum takeoff weight: 73.5 (77) tons / 162 (169.8) lbs. x 1000

Maximum landing weight: 64.5 (66) tons / 142.2 (145.5) lbs. x 1000

Maximum zero fuel weight: 61 (62.5) tons / 134.5 (137.8) lbs. x 1000

Maximum fuel capacity: 23,860 (29,840) Litres / 6,300 (7,885) US gal.

Typical operating weight empty: 42.4 tons / 93.5 lbs. x 1000

Typical volumetric payload: 16.6 tons / 36.59 lbs. x 1000

The Prolog To Disaster -- On Approach To Tegucigalpa

PROLOG >> Grupo TACA Flight 390, the flag carrier of El Salvador, was scheduled to stop briefly in Tegucigalpa and again in San Pedro Sula before heading to Miami on May 30 2008.

Fog & rain would combine to create a change of plans for the 124 passengers -- most of whom would walk away.

It is clear that Toncontín Int'l Airport had "Too Little Runway - Too Much Plane" that day, but there had been warnings.

Officials had warned for years about the short runway at Toncontín Int'l Airport -- but it is the normal history of civilization that safety revisions -- come on the backs of human tragedy. Sad, but true.

As you will see & hear below -- Toncontín Int'l Airport -- was an accident waiting to happen - yet again.

Michael S. McDaniel - Your Editor

Firefighters Lay Suppressing Streams On Grupo TACA Flight 390

Editor Note:

The Grupo TACA Airbus 320 was trying to land with 124 people on board when it overshot the runway. Its nose smashed into an embankment and its fuselage buckled and broke in three places, trapping the pilot and co-pilot inside.

More than 2,000 gallons (7,500 liters) of fuel spilled out of the jet, and authorities tried to clear away hundreds of onlookers while they hosed down cars trapped under the plane's left engine.

"The airplane's fuel could cause an explosion, and that would be an even bigger tragedy," Security Ministry spokesman Ivan Mejia said on May 30.

Many passengers walked away from the accident. Traditionally -- this makes the landing of Flight 390 a tragic, but technically good one.

The plane left San Salvador at 8:30 a.m. local time carrying 124 passengers mostly from Honduras, El Salvador and Costa Rica. It was scheduled to stop briefly in Tegucigalpa and in San Pedro Sula before heading on to Miami.

It remains unclear what caused the crash, but weather may have been a factor. The runway was wet with rain from Tropical Storm Alma.. On the first approach, the pilot aborted due to poor visibility, and the second time the braking was not optimal. But due to weather, the second attempt ended up in the middle of the runway, not at the beginning. The result was catastrophic.


Flight 390 Originated In El Salvador

Bound For Toncontin Int'l Airport In Tegucigalpa, Honduras.

Within The City, Hondurans Frantically Help To Take Off Passangers During The Rescue Operation

TACA Flight 390 Crashed Through A Fence, Onto A Road & Smashed Into Cars, A Billboard And A Building.

Firefighters Were Said To Be At The Door Within 20 Seconds

Report From The Families

The crash caused an anxious moment for Barry Comptom, of Kissimmee, Florida, who was waiting May 30. at Miami Int'l Airport's Terminal "J" for his daughter, Lauren, 25, to arrive from Honduras. He got a text message at about noon from his wife, Penny:
"Doubt Lauren makes Miami today. Plane she was to get on just crashed. Am waiting to hear."

Comptom was shaken by the news. "Well, your heart skips doesn't it?" he asked. Lauren Comptom was fine, but her brother, Brent Comptom, 12, said she had seen the flight's wreckage. "And I know that to her it was just a devastating experience just to see the plane with the fire and all."

May 30 afternoon, several people waited at Terminal J, Miami for relatives who were supposed to catch the ill-fated flight in Honduras.

Among them: Julia Novondo, 49, waiting for her sister, Melinda Calex. "That airport has always been dangerous. And then with the weather,'' she said. "She called me before she got on the plane to tell me that a plane had fallen in Honduras and that there were dead people but that she was OK."

Sometimes, it's worst for those who just wait.


Hondurans Help Passangers During The Rescue Operation

Editor Note - pilot, 2 passengers & motorist reportedly died and 81 people were injured

Flight 390 dead included passenger Harry Brautigam, a Nicaraguan American who lived in Honduras, of heart failure shortly after the crash. Brautigam was President of the Central American Bank of Economic Integration (BCIE).

Janneth Shantall, wife of Brazilian Ambassador Brian Michael Fraser Neele, was also killed in the crash. An employee of the Brazilian Embassy told local media Ambassador Neele was also aboard the plane and was injured. The ambassador's condition is not known.

The body of an unidentified man trapped under the plane's wreckage was believed to be a taxi driver.

Identities for others have not yet been reported.

Injured included the former head of Honduras' armed forces, Gen. Daniel Lopez Carballo.

It is true that "Ship Happens! ©" -- But Such Dire Consequences can almost always be prevented -- by either proper safety planning -- or hindsight.


Flight 390 Has "Safely" Landed Most of Her Passengers -- Her Last Accomplishment


TACA Flight 390 Crashed Through A Fence, Onto A Road & Smashed Into Cars And A Building.

The Altitude of 3,300 feet (1,000 Meters) Forces Pilots To Use More Runway On Landings & Takeoffs Than They Would At Sea Level.

And Because of The Hills, Pilots Have To Make An Unusually Steep Approach.

But Flight 390 May Be The Last To Attempt This "Too Little Runway."

SPECIAL: Film of Harrowing Landing At Toncontín Int'l Airport - American Airlines plane just mkes it! This field is dangerous!

SPECIAL: Cockpit View of a Landing into Toncontín Int'l Airport (TGU) - get it right or else -- all white knuckle -- another accident waiting to happen.

Editor Note - Toncontín Int'l Airport - An Int'l Hazard

The airport's single Runway 02t is 1,863 meters (6,112 feet) in length and is at an altitude of 1,004 m (3,294 feet). What's more, given the location of the region at 3,300 feet above sea level, it has been reported that pilots require more runway for takeoffs & landings, than they otherwise might. This, given the already anemic length of the runway, is a disaster waiting to happen. It's a wonder there haven't been more accidents. Did you remember to hug your pilot today?

Boeing 757s are the largest aircraft that can land at Toncontín Int'l Airport, as it is one of the shortest international runways in the world.

Toncontín Int'l Airport has received much criticism for being one of the most dangerous in the world due to its proximity to the mountains and for years efforts have been made to replace it with Soto Cano Airport in Comayagua, currently a Honduran Military Airbase. Toncontín has been improved significantly by the work of CAT (the Airport Corporation of Tegucigalpa) and by InterAirports, a company hired by the government of Honduras to administer the four airports of the country.

After TACA Flight 390 crashed on May 30, 2008 it was announced by Honduran President Manuel Zelaya that all large airplanes would, within 60 days, use the Soto Cano Air Base instead of Toncontín, removing all the International traffic from Toncontin limiting it to only domestic flights and small planes. There have been calls for years to replace aging Toncontin International Airport, whose short runway, primitive navigation equipment and neighboring hills make it one of the world's more dangerous international airports.

Toncontín Int'l Airport was built on the southern edge of hilly Tegucigalpa in 1948 with a runway less than 5,300 feet (1,600 meters) long &emdash; shorter than that of a small field such as Municipal Airport in Goldsboro, N.C.

Editor Note - This Had Happened Before

On April 1, 1997, a U.S. Air Force C-130 cargo plane overshot the runway at Toncontín Int'l Airport and rolled 200 yards before bursting into flames on a major boulevard, killing 3 crew aboard.

The worst crash associated with the airport came in 1989 when a Honduran airliner hit a nearby hill, killing 133 people.

The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board Dispatched A Team of Investigators To Assist Honduras & El Salvador In Their Investigations

Editor Note - Investigation Takes Shape.

A U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) senior investigator will serve as the United States Accredited Representative. He will be accompanied by an NTSB powerplants investigator, two investigators from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration and a representative from International Aero Engines.

The BEA of France is also sending an Accredited Representative and a team to participate in the investigation.

The NTSB says the investigation is being conducted by the Civil Aviation Authority of El Salvador (under delegation by the Government of Honduras), which will release all information on the progress of the investigation.

More Than 2,000 Gallons (7,500 liters) of Fuel Spilled Out of The Jet.

Authorities Tried To Clear Hundreds of Onlookers While They Hosed Down Cars Trapped Under The Plane's Left Engine.

The Body of A Man Trapped Under Flight 390's Wreckage Believed To Be A Taxi Driver.

Flight 390 Is An A320-233 Airbus, Irish Plate EI- TAF, Series #1374, Built On Jan. 4th 2001.

Rescuers Had To Pry Open Part of The Wreckage To Get Crew Out, But The Pilot Didn't Survive.

The Captian Had Accumulated over 11,000 Hours' Flight Time. He Was Taken By Coditions At Toncontín.

We Await The Name of This Pilot -- A Hero Who Saved HIs Passengers At The Cost Of His Life.

The Flight Deck Impacted An Embankment, A Road, A Billboard & Then A Building.


Editor Note:
Because human life can NEVER be compared to property, we note toward the end of this feature that some tons of airfreight also went down with Flight 390.

Because there are only so many air freighters in the world, most cargo is stowed below your feet aboard passenger airliners.

In a crash, the "belly cargo" is first to be crushed -- a total loss here. We hope these shippers of emergency medical supplies, or produce, or urgently needed spare parts all had high quality cargo insurance Because TACA is responsible for only about US$25 per kilo of cargo by weight.

Still, our industry would gladly suffer a 100% loss than the death of a single passenger.


Until May 29th This A320-233 Airbus Had Accumulated 21,957 Flight Hours & 9,992 Landings.

But Tail #EI-TAF Will Fly No More. Sadly, Parts of This Plane Can Soon Be Found In Your Kitchen Utensil Isle.

Editor Note: Perhaps it will not happen again

Honduran air officials now say they will close Toncontín Int'l Airport to large jets and permanently transfer those flights to the former military airfield at Palmerola. Larger jets will now operate out of the Palmerola Airport, also known as the Soto Cano Honduran Air Force Base, about 30 miles north of the capital -- where the runways is 2,900 meters (9,500ft).

Too bad so many lives were involved in the decision making process.


TACA & The Airbus A320 Have Many Millions of Miles Left To Safely Fly

But Not Into Toncontín Int'l Airport

Shippers Must Have Quality Marine Cargo Insurance ........ Because......... "Ship Happens! ©"

To Repeat -- No Matter How Careful You Are -- Or Who You Hire ....... "Ship Happens! ©"

"Ship Happens! ©"

The Dedication of This Feature Is Simple: To The Crew of TACA Flight 390 and thier families. These People Bring Our Passengers & Cargo -- years after year in safety.

SPECIAL NOTE: The historic dangers of carriage by air & sae continue to be quite real. Shippers must be encouraged to purchase high quality marine cargo insurance from their freight forwarder or customs broker

It's very dangerous out there.

INDEX TO OUR "Too Little Runway - Too Much Plane" PAGE SPECIAL FEATURES:

The Airbus Aircraft Families - A320 Family - A320
Airbus A30

TACA - operating 36 Airbus A320 aircraft

TACA Routes


Toncontín International Airport

SPECIAL: Film of Harrowing Landing At Toncontín Int'l Airport - American Airlines plane just mkes it! This field is dangerous!

SPECIAL: Cockpit View of a Landing into Toncontín Int'l Airport (TGU) - get it right or else -- all white knuckle -- another accident waiting to happen.

Soto Cano Honduran Air Force Base  - Palmerola Airport

1997 C130 Loss at Tegucigalpa-Toncontin Airport (TGU)

Tropical Storm Alma

Our Daily Vessel Casualties - stay informed

Ocean Features From The Cargo Letter- these are just examples

The Cargo Letter Photo Gallery of Transport Loss - For All The Air & Ocean Features - a few examples below
"Recurring Dream" - M/V Norwegian Dream - May 2008

"Explorer Ship Down" - M/V Explorer - Nov. 2007

"Kwanyang Crane Kaboom" - Nov. 2007

"Den Den Done" - M/V Denden - Sept. 2007

"For The "L" of It" - M/V Action Alpha - August 2007

"Pepito Flores Did Not Need To Die " - OUR INVESTIGATION RESULTS

"Stack Attack!" - M/V Ital Florida - July 2007

"Singles Only" - visit our individual moments of transport crisis for more.

The Greatest Container Losses Of All Time - these are the grand fathers -

M/V OOCL America

M/V APL China

M/V APL Panama - The EPIC

"Great Misfortune"- M/V Hyundai Fortune - March 2006

SPECIAL NOTE: The historic dangers of carriage by sea continue to be quite real. Shippers must be encouraged to purchase high quality marine cargo insurance from their freight forwarder or customs broker. 

It's very dangerous out there.

Thanks To Our Contributors For The "Too Little Runway - Too Much Plane" Feature

Our Contributor for this feature are:
Anonymou Contributor Who Has Brought Us Many Features -- But Must Be Anonymous*

J.W. Hall

The Cargo Letter appreciates the continuing efforts of this valued contributor. Thanks Pal For Your Contributions!

NOTE: Please Provide Us With Your Additional Information For This Loss.

EDITOR'S NOTE FOR SURVEYORS, ATTORNEYS & MARINE ADJUSTERS: The Internet edition effort of The Cargo Letter now celebrates it's 8th Year of Service -- making us quite senior in this segment of the industry. We once estimated container underway losses at about 1,500 per year. Lloyd's put that figure at about 10,000 earlier this year. Quite obviously, the reporting mechanism for these massive losses is not supported by the lines. News of these events is not posted to the maritime community. Our new project is to call upon you -- those handling the claims -- to let us know of each container loss at sea-- in confidentiality. Many of you survey on behalf of cargo interests with no need for confidentiality. Others work for the lines & need to be protected. As a respected Int'l publication, The Cargo Letter enjoys full press privileges & cannot be forced to disclose our sources of information. No successful attempt has ever been made. If a personal notation for your report is desired -- each contributor will be given a "hot link" to your company Website in each & every report. Please take moment & report your "overside" containers to us. If you do not wish attribution, your entry will be "anonymous." This will will benefit our industry -- for obvious reasons! McD

* NOTE: The Cargo Letter wants you to know that by keeping the identity of our contributors 100% Confidential, you are able to view our continuing series of "Cargo Disasters." Our friends send us materials which benefit the industry. The materials are provided to our news publication with complete and enforceable confidentiality for the sender. In turn, we provide these materials to you.  

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