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East African Airways 720

By Patrick Mondout

On April 18, 1972, an East African Airways VC-10 en route from Nairobi to London crashed on takeoff in Addis Abada (the first scheduled stop), Ethiopia killing 41 of the 107 aboard. The crash was an unfortunate result of a burst tire and faulty maintenance.

During the initial takeoff role, a tire burst and the takeoff was aborted at a speed which should have allowed the plane to stop safely. However, there was a breaking problem and the plane was unable to stop. The VC-10 ran off the runway and hit a light tower which sheared off its wing and started a fire. It came to rest in flames in a ditch.

Though all managed to escape the plane, fire trapped and killed 43. Many of the passengers were British children on vacation.

Incorrectly fitted break components were said to be at fault.

A picture of this aircraft is available here.

Source: ICAO Circular Aircraft Accident Digest.

East African Airways 720 at a Glance
AirlineEast African Airways
DateApril 18, 1972
Flight number720
Registration Number5X-UVA
Crew Fatalities8 of 11
Passenger Fatalities35 of 96
Total Fatalities43 of 107

Air Safety References:
Bartelski, Jan. Disasters in the Air: Mysterious Air Disasters Explained. Airlife Publishing: England, 2001.
Beaty, David. The Naked Pilot: The Human Factor in Aircraft Accidents. Airlife Publishing: England, 1996.
Cushing, Steven. Fatal Words: Communication Clashes and Aircraft Crashes University of Chicago Press: Chicago, 1997.
Faith, Nicholas. Black Box: The Air-Crash Detectives-Why Air Safety Is No Accident. Motorbooks International, 1997.
Gero, David. Aviation Disasters: The World's Major Civil Airliner Crashes Since 1950. Sutton, 2003.
Job, Macarthur. Air Disaster (Volume 1). Aerospace Publications: Fyshwick, Australia, 1995.
Job, Macarthur. Air Disaster (Volume 2). Aerospace Publications: Fyshwick, Australia, 1996.
Job, Macarthur. Air Disaster (Volume 3). Aerospace Publications: Fyshwick, Australia, 1999.
Krause, Shari Stamford. Aircraft Safety: Accident Investigations, Analyses & Applications. McGraw Hill, New York, 1996.
Macpherson, Malcolm. The Black Box : All-New Cockpit Voice Recorder Accounts Of In-flight Accidents. New York: William Morrow, 1998.
Macpherson, Malcolm. On a Wing and a Prayer: Interviews with Airline Disaster Survivors. Perennial, 2002.
Owen, David. Air Accident Investigation, 2nd Edition. Motorbooks International, 2002.
Stewart, Stanley. Emergency! - Crisis on the Flight Deck, 2nd Edition. Airlife Publishing, England, 2003.
Walters, James M. Aircraft Accident Analysis: Final Reports. McGraw-Hill Professional, 2000.
Wells, Alexander T. Commercial Aviation Safety, 3rd Edition. McGraw-Hill Professional, 2001.


Share Your Memories!

What do you remember about this crash? Were you a witness? Have you any compelling stories to share? Share your stories with the world! (We print the best stories right here!)

Your Memories Shared!

"I remember not being able to get bookings to London from Nairobi for good few days and then I had the choice to fly by the doomed flight or the later one. As I was anxious to get home to London, I chose this one and in the excitement didnít even inform my family members there that I was to be on that flight! In hindsight that was a foolish decision!

I was seated on seat number 11 and it was fine till we got to Addis Ababa. There the plane refueled and we were to take off - and did we ever!

It was a nightmare! All I can remember is that I jumped down the so-called hole later to be told that the plane had split into three pieces (wing/fuselage/cockpit). I believe I jumped about 10 feed and tried to wait for some other survivors who were also trying to jump --in particular a pregnant woman. There was water like liquid which was flowing by and we then realized that it was fuel!

I remember then moving as far as I can in case it exploded! Then I just stood totally blanked out - just could see some passengers walking fully ablaze. It felt like a TV programme - somethings that could never really happen in reality.

Gradually I began to feel severe pain in my lower back and later discovered that I had fractured the three lower vertebraes.

I just got on to the first available van that came to rescue which took us to Empress Zauditu Hospital. I had in the meantime lost my handbag/spectacles and shoes and did not have any physical wounds apart from some rips in my clothes, but my stockings had bad blood stains - not mine though!

I felt totally lonely and had not a clue as to how my family members would ever know where I was, but at the time my brother in-law-to-be heard on BBC and had intuition that I could be on that flight and so he cotacted my family in London and my father in Canada. They in turn checked our relatives in Nairobi and were confirmed as to myself being one of the victims!

Later that day the Canadian Ambassador in Addis came to see me and that was the first sign telling me that my family were looking for me! What a relief that was. The following day my brother flew in from Lagos and arranged for me to be flown to London on the Royal Air Force rescue aircraft. I was one of the 12 passengers in that hospitalised plane. We returned to London via Nicosia and landed at RAF Benson from where we were taken to the hospital in a helicopter. Whilst we were landing at Benson, an old lady who had survived the crash died of a heart attack.

I was so pleased to see the faces of my immediate family members and was hospitalised for 6 weeks.

Since then I've flown innumerous times but am still only afraid of landing and take off and I cannot bear the smell of aviation fuel!

Otherwise it has become history except that I remember it on its anniversary every year! I also have a small scrapbook of some newspaper cuttings but is lying at my London home.

In all this I really appreciate the kindness of all the strangers who stood by me although they had not even a clue who I was and where I came from and where I was heading - including Canadian Ambassador and his wife and three Indian families in Addis.

Now I am married and have two grown up girls. My husband and I practice law in Malawi.

Please let me know if you know of any more survivors of this crash."

--Veena Mamtora (nee Rajdev)



Airline: East African Airways

Location: Addis Ababa-Bole Airport in Ethiopia

Aircraft: Vickers Super VC-10

Date: April 18, 1972

Total Fatalities: 43 of 107

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