[Author’s note: The following article contains images some readers may find disturbing. Please proceed with caution]:
Dashcam video posted to YouTube on Tuesday claims to have captured the horrifying moment a civilian Boeing 747 cargo plane crashed after takeoff at Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan [Content warning: strong language]:
“The American-owned plane bound for Dubai crashed…killing all seven people on board,” Fox News reports, citing U.S. military officials.
The crash happened on Monday.
“The National Transportation Safety Board is sending a team of investigators to Afghanistan to assist local authorities with their investigation,” the Associated Press reports.
“The NTSB said Tuesday the crew members were all American citizens. The accident site is within the perimeter of Bagram Air Base,” the report adds. “The Afghanistan Ministry of Transportation and Commercial Aviation is leading the investigation.”
Five of the seven crew members were reportedly from Michigan. Authorities have not yet released their identities.
“The Taliban claimed responsibility for downing the plane, but NATO said the claims were false, and there was no sign of insurgent activity in the area at the time of the crash,” the AP report notes.
But what else do we know about the crash and the video? Well, first of all, the video’s timestamp appears to be suffering from a programming error. The crash, according to every report available, happened April 29, not February 1.
Next, for a further understanding of the crash, here’s a possible explanation posted to an aviation forum by a person claiming to have seen the tragedy firsthand [via BuzzFeed]:
The accident was witnessed by a number of us on the ground. The National Air Cargo 747-400 took off and as is fairly usual with these crews entered a steeper than ‘normal’ climb.. this is often done here and referred to as a tactical departure.. we perform them so as to avoid close proximity to any ground based insurgents..
The pitch angle of the a/c was seen to increase beyond even what we normally witness until it could only be described as extreme.. the left wing was then seen to dip slightly before the role was countered followed by a role to the right causing the right wing to drop.
The a/c appeared to be fully stalled with a wing drop at between 1000 and 1200 feet agl. The a/c then descended with the nose dropping and right wing low as it disappeared from view at a very low altitude. It’s unlikely that the nose had any significant pitch down attitude at the time of impact. The a/c crashed within the confines of the airfield close to holding point Alfa.
The above is accurate and witnessed by most of our people on the ramp so can be easily verified. There was no insurgent activity and although the weather here is currently unstable with considerable thunderstorm activity the weather was not a factor in the accident.
At the time of the crash there was no verticle activity close to the airport and the wind was moderate and steady.. we had landed shortly before with the wind at 090/14. (R03)
We have heard from airport sources that there were 8 people on board made up of the flight crew and load-masters.. I can’t confirm this.. It has also been reported that a communication from the flightcrew shortly after take-off stated that they were having control problems. I can’t confirm this either but it does seem possible.
The appearance of the flight profile did suggest that either a miscaculation had been made regarding the loading CofG/Weight or that part of the cargo had shifted during rotation. I’m stating this only to help describe the sequence of events as seen from the ground and not speculating.
Lastly, this site posits a couple of theories that might explain the crash:
Some reports of a load shift changing the center of gravity. That fits the video, but it is hardly conclusive. Other issues could include a faulty configuration for take-off or crew error.
Until the investigation is concluded, the mystery of the crash will remain just that — a mystery.
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Featured image screen grab.