NATO reported today that a National Airlines Boeing 747-428 cargo plane crashed as it took off from US-run Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan on its way to Dubai yesterday killing all seven on board. A dramatic video shows the airplane climbing from the runway but with a nose high altitude and then a sudden stall. After a brief rocking of the wings was followed by a dramatic plummet to the earth where the plane exploded in a huge fireball.
Graphic Video of Bagram Crash
Animation of Bagram Crash provided by The Aviationsit
The Taliban took responsibility for the incident but the military reported that this was a false claim. Due to calm weather conditions investigators have speculated about the possibility of load shifting in the aft of the plane which seems to indicated in the video.
The Center of Gravity
NASA has a step by step formula for determining the center of gravity for a 747. The 747-428 was first manufactured and flown in 1993 and a passenger aircraft and then converted to freight use in the late 1990’s.
According to pilots familiar with the plane, it started on a steep climb and a load in the fuselage shifted to the rear of the plane throwing the center of gravity “out of limit.” In this scenario the pilot is unable to use the elevator to bring the nose of the plane down and this leads to “wing stalling.”
As happened in this incident, and as happens when a plane is not in “coordinated flight” one wing will stall first and then the second will follow. In the video, the right wing fails first.
Despite the difficulty in bringing the plane’s nose down, the pilot in this case was able to make a correction and momentarily drop the nose but the altitude of the plane was so low that there was no room to recover. Had this weight shifted at a much higher altitude they may have had a chance.
According to pilots, the “loadmaster” is responsible for securing all cargo in a plane and the blame for the accident, barring any new evidence, is likely to be placed there.