Spanair 5022: latest update

In the last couple of days, new details about the Spanair 5022 surfaced, each one pointing to a different cause of the crash or possible description of the catastrophic chain of events that led to the accident.
The first one was reported by the Spanish newspaper El Pais and was confirmed by a mail by a German friend who sent me a picture he found on the Internet showing one of the engines with a deployed Thrust Reverse. The TR is a system composed by moving surfaces used to divert the engine’s exhaust so that the thrust produced is directed forward, rather than aft. The TR are used only to slow down the aircraft speed after touch down and to reduce the landing roll. It looks like the right engine had the TR in the deployed position. There have been 4 cases in aviation in which TR failures or uncommanded deployments during take-off contributed to the crashes of some aircraft. The famous video recorded by an internal camera at Barajas (not released) should shed some light on the possible deployment of the TR. If the TR deployed during the climb, just after rotation and not due to the impact upon crashing, the plane would have yawed to the right (coherently with the crasj location).

The second is a transcription of broadcasted by an Argentinian TV that reconstructed the possible cockpit talks between the Cdr and the F/O during the last seconds of the flight. According to this supposed transcription, one of the pilots said (in Spanish) more or less the following sentences: “left engine fire”….. “ok, I keep it, rotate the same”…..”positive climb, oh my God”…. “it’s departing, give me more rudder”.
If confirmed (it would be interesting to understand how an Argentinian television got the CVR so fast), the transcription would point to an engine fire, even if it was excluded by the footage recorded by the airport’s internal camera and by the latest news reports. According to the conversation in the cockpit, the pilots experienced the loss of thrust before the rotation (even though it is not possible to affirm the loss occurred after or before V1). The Cdr decided to rotate with a single engine and to apply the rudder to compensate the asymmetric thrust. “Give me more rudder” would mean they didn’t initially apply the required yaw correction but why did the aircraft crash right of the runway? If the Cdr requested more rudder it probably because the plane was yawing to the left, towards the damaged engine. Did they apply too much rudder forcing the aircraft to roll to the right or maybe they applied the wrong correction with a left rudder instead of a right one?
In the meanwhile, what is sure is that the Spanair flight from Madrid to Gran Canaria will never fly again as JK5022. From Aug. 22 it flies as JK5024 (on Aug. 21, the day after the crash, it was still 5022).

About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.


  1. Am I correct in saying that by FAR 25 (25.107) VR (rotation speed) must be greater than V1

  2. David,
    I have found the media information to be nearly 100% incorrect on air accident facts (which I am tempted to extrapolate to every other “breaking news” story) in the rush to get a headline that sells. The media speculation that surrounds these events tends to dilute the investigation outcome, as the media hype is usually gone when the final facts are established. That being said, I have to say I appreciate your cautious and skeptical treatment of the information introduced in this forum, which is refreshing. It will be most interesting to compare the CIAIAC initial report (due 30 days from the accident) with the recent media accounts.

  3. Hi Chris,
    thank you. I’ve noticed that media inaccuracy is extremely high after accidents and major emergencies. Just think to the CVR transcription of the Argentinian TV: the conversation between CDR and F/O was a fake. The journalist who did the scoop later admitted that the transcription was simply hyphotetical since it was based on the information he gained from various aviation sources and pilots flying the same aircraft type.
    Unfortunately this is only the last occurrence of such kind of “mistake”.
    This is the reason why I started to talk a bit more about aviation safety on my website….Even if I’m not an investigator, I tend to be cautious and to provide readers a possible explaination and a few answers.

  4. Hi David,
    stumbled across your website by accident. Extremely interesting and competent as it seems. My compliments!
    Greetings from Germany, Tom

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