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Icelandic Airlines Flight 001
A DC-8 similar to the one involved.
Date15 November 1978
SummaryControlled flight into terrain caused by faulty airport equipment along with crew and ATC error
SiteKatunayake, Sri Lanka
Aircraft typeDouglas DC-8-63CF
Aircraft nameLeifur Eiríksson
OperatorIcelandic Airlines operating for Garuda Indonesia
Flight originJeddah International Airport, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
StopoverBandaranaike International Airport, Colombo, Sri Lanka
DestinationJuanda International Airport, Surabaya, Indonesia

Loftleiðir HF LL 001, a charter flight, was a Douglas DC-8 that crashed on November 15, 1978, on approach to the international airport in Colombo, Sri Lanka. The crash killed 8 of the 13 Icelandic crew members, 5 reserve crew members, and 170 (mostly Indonesian) Muslim pilgrims from South Borneo out of a total of 262 passengers and crew.[1] The official report by Sri Lankan authorities determined the probable cause of the crash to be failure of the crew to conform to approach procedures; however, American[citation needed] and Icelandic authorities claimed faulty equipment at the airport and air traffic control error as the reasons for the crash.[2]

Icelandic Airlines 001 is the deadliest crash in Icelandic aviation history, and the second deadliest in Sri Lankan aviation history after Martinair Flight 138, another DC-8, which crashed four years before.[1][2][3]


The aircraft involved in the incident was a DC-8 chartered from the Icelandic airline Loftleiðir for Hajj operations; the aircraft's registration number was TF-FLA, and its name was "Leifur Eiríksson".[4]


The aircraft was chartered by Garuda Indonesia. On November 15 it operated as flight LL001 from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, to Surabaya, Indonesia. All 13 crew members were Icelandic. There were 249 passengers, the majority being residents of Indonesia who had made the hajj to Mecca and were returning home.[5]

The flight departed Jeddah for Surabaya with a planned stop at Bandaranaike International Airport in Colombo, Sri Lanka, for refueling and crew rotation. Thunderstorms were in the area, and windshear was an issue.[6]: 31–32 At 22:53:24 local time, the control center informed the aircraft's crew that they would be landing on runway 04. In response, the crew requested a landing on runway 22. The controller approved the request and gave instructions for an ILS landing on runway 22. The aircraft then descended to flight level (FL) 220, reaching that height around 90 miles (140 km) from the airport.[6]: 1

At 23:06:32 local time, the crew contacted the airport’s radar control center, which cleared the flight to descend to an altitude of 2,000 feet (610 meters) and then follow control's instructions to perform an approach to landing on runway 22. The dispatcher also gave the crew instructions to report when they had reached the radio beacon, which the crew acknowledged receiving but did not confirm. The radar controller periodically transmitted distance and altitude data to the aircraft. The last radio message from the controller was given at 23:27:26: "Lima, Lima 001, slightly to the left of centre line, very slightly to the left of centre line, two miles from touch-down, height 650 feet, cleared to land off this approach." At 23:27:37, the crew replied, "Roger."[6]: 2

When the approach controller subsequently acquired a visual on Flight 001, the aircraft was descending dangerously towards the ground. The controller warned the flight: "Lima, Lima 001, you are undershooting." However, the crew was then speaking with the radar controller on another frequency, and so did not receive the advisory. The approach controller then lost sight of the DC-8, after which he saw an explosion. At 23:28:03, the DC-8 crashed into a rubber and coconut plantation and exploded. The left wing tip struck the coconut trees first breaking it apart, the aircraft then banked 40 degrees to port and impacted the ground virtually disintegrating the forward fuselage, the remaining fuselage cart-wheeled out of control and split up into 6 pieces coming to a stop 478 feet (146 m) past the initial point of impact.[6]: 2 The crash site was located 1.1589 miles (1.8651 km) from runway 22 and 103.15 feet (31.44 m) off the right side of the runway's extended center line.[6]: 2 As the first witness to the crash, the approach controller immediately informed his colleagues of the incident.

Within half an hour, 5 fire trucks arrived at the crash site. The rescue operation was hampered by the presence of many coconut palm trees, which prevented access to many large pieces of equipment. One of the rescue team members was the acting head of Sri Lanka's civil aviation authority. While assisting in the rescue, he managed to document the instrument readings and took photographs necessary for the investigation.[6]: 2

A total of 183 people were killed in the crash: 8 crew members and 175 passengers. Survivors totaled 79: 32 people (4 crew members and 28 passengers) received non-fatal injuries, while 47 people (1 crew member and 46 passengers) were uninjured.[6]: 3

See also


  1. ^ a b "189 Moslem [sic] Pilgrims Feared Dead In Charter Jet Crash in Sri Lanka". The New York Times. 1978-11-16. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2021-04-08.
  2. ^ a b Ranter, Harro. "Aircraft accident McDonnell Douglas DC-8-63CF TF-FLA Colombo-Bandaranaike International Airport (CMB) (Sri Lanka)". Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved 2013-11-09.
  3. ^ Ranter, Harro. "Sri Lanka air safety profile". Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved 2021-04-08.
  4. ^ "TF-FLA Loftleidir Icelandic Douglas DC-8-60/70". Retrieved 2020-06-16.
  5. ^ Sveinsson, Óttar (2006). Útkall: Leifur Eiríksson brotlendir [Callout: Leifur Eiríksson breaks] (in Icelandic). ISBN 9979-9728-4-X. Archived from the original on 2013-11-09. Retrieved 2007-03-31.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g "Report of the Commission of Inquiry appointed by His Excellency the president to inquire into the causes and circumstances in which Loftleider Icelandic Airways aircraft DC-8-63F TF-FLA met with an accident in the vicinity of the Katunayake Airport on 15th November 1978" (PDF). Civil Aviation Authority of Sri Lanka. 28 June 1979. Retrieved 24 April 2014.