Nigeria Airways Flight 2120

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Nigeria Airways Flight 2120
Nationair DC-8-61 C-GMXQ FAO 1989.png
C-GMXQ, the aircraft involved, photographed in 1989
Date11 July 1991
SummaryUnder-inflated tire which overheated, leading to a fire shortly after takeoff
Site King Abdulaziz International Airport, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
21°38′13″N39°10′23″E / 21.63694°N 39.17306°E / 21.63694; 39.17306 Coordinates: 21°38′13″N39°10′23″E / 21.63694°N 39.17306°E / 21.63694; 39.17306
Aircraft type Douglas DC-8-61
Operator Nationair on behalf of Nigeria Airways
Registration C-GMXQ
Flight originKing Abdulaziz International Airport, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
Destination Sadiq Abubakar III International Airport, Sokoto, Nigeria

Nigeria Airways Flight 2120 was a chartered passenger flight from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, to Sokoto, Nigeria on 11 July 1991, which caught fire shortly after takeoff from King Abdulaziz International Airport and crashed while attempting to return for an emergency landing, killing all 247 passengers and 14 crew members on board. The aircraft was a Douglas DC-8 operated by Nationair for Nigeria Airways. Flight 2120 is the deadliest accident involving a DC-8 and remains the deadliest aviation disaster involving a Canadian airline. [1]

Jeddah City in Makkah, Saudi Arabia

Jeddah is a city in the Tihamah region of the Hejaz on the coast of the Red Sea and is the major urban center of western Saudi Arabia. It is the largest city in Makkah Province, the largest seaport on the Red Sea, and with a population of about four million people, the second-largest city in Saudi Arabia after the capital city, Riyadh. Jeddah is Saudi Arabia's commercial capital.

Saudi Arabia Country in Western Asia

Saudi Arabia, officially the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, is a sovereign state in Western Asia constituting the bulk of the Arabian Peninsula. With a land area of approximately 2,150,000 km2 (830,000 sq mi), Saudi Arabia is geographically the largest sovereign state in the Middle East, the second-largest in the Arab world, the fifth-largest in Asia, and the 12th-largest in the world. Saudi Arabia is bordered by Jordan and Iraq to the north, Kuwait to the northeast, Qatar, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates to the east, Oman to the southeast and Yemen to the south; it is separated from Israel and Egypt by the Gulf of Aqaba. It is the only nation with both a Red Sea coast and a Persian Gulf coast, and most of its terrain consists of arid desert, lowland and mountains. As of October 2018, the Saudi economy was the largest in the Middle East and the 18th largest in the world. Saudi Arabia also enjoys one of the world's youngest populations; 50 percent of its 33.4 million people are under 25 years old.

Sokoto Place in Sokoto State, Nigeria

Sokoto is a city located in the extreme northwest of Nigeria, near the confluence of the Sokoto River and the Rima River. As of 2006 it has a population of 427,760. Sokoto is the modern-day capital of Sokoto State.


Aircraft and crew

The aircraft involved in the accident was a 1968 Douglas DC-8-61, C-GMXQ, owned by the Canadian company Nolisair, usually operated by Nationair. At the time of the accident, it was being wet-leased to Nigeria Airways, which in turn sub-leased it to Holdtrade Services to transport Nigerian pilgrims to and from Mecca. [2] William Allan, the 47-year-old pilot in command, a former Canadian Air Force pilot, had logged 10,700 flight hours and 1,000 hours in type. Kent Davidge, the 36-year-old first officer, had logged 8,000 flight hours, of which 550 hours were in type, and Victor Fehr, the 46-year-old flight engineer, had logged 7,500 flight hours, of which 1,000 hours were in type. [1] [3] [4] The DC-8 was the primary aircraft type used by the airline. [5]

Nolisair Defunct Canadian air transport company

Nolisair was a Canadian company, the parent company of Nationair, a Canadian airline, and of Technair, an aircraft maintenance company. The company was owned by Robert Obadia. The headquarters was located in the Nationair Building on the property of Montréal-Mirabel International Airport in Mirabel, Quebec. An airline based in the U.S. with a similar name, Nations Air, operated during the mid to late 1990s.

Nigeria Airways Defunct airline

Nigeria Airways Ltd., more commonly known as Nigeria Airways, was a Nigerian airline. The company was founded in 1958 after the dissolution of West African Airways Corporation (WAAC). It held the name WAAC Nigeria until 1971, when it was rebranded to the name it had until it ceased operations in 2003. The government of Nigeria owned a majority of the airline (51%) until 1961, when it boosted its participation in the company to 100% and made it the country's flag carrier. At the time of dissolution, the airline's headquarters were at Airways House in Abuja. Operations were concentrated at Murtala Muhammed International Airport and served both domestic and international destinations mainly concentrated in West Africa; the network also had points in Europe, North America and Saudi Arabia. The airline was managed by a number of foreign companies, including British Airways, the Dutch company KLM and South African Airways.

Pilgrim person who undertakes a religious journey

A pilgrim is a traveler who is on a journey to a holy place. Typically, this is a physical journey to some place of special significance to the adherent of a particular religious belief system. In the spiritual literature of Christianity, the concept of pilgrim and pilgrimage may refer to the experience of life in the world or to the inner path of the spiritual aspirant from a state of wretchedness to a state of beatitude.


The aircraft departed King Abdulaziz International Airport bound for Sadiq Abubakar III International Airport in Sokoto, but problems were reported shortly after takeoff. [2] [6] Unknown to the crew, the aircraft had caught fire during departure, and though the fire itself was not obvious since it started in an area without fire warning systems, the effects were numerous. Pressurization failed quickly, and the crew was deluged with nonsensical warnings caused by fire-related circuit failures. In response to the pressurization failure, Allan decided to remain at 2000 feet, but the flight was cleared to 3000 feet as a result of the controller mistaking Flight 2120 for a Saudia flight that was also reporting pressurization problems due to Captain Allan mistakenly identifying as "Nationair 2120" rather than "Nigerian 2120", a mix-up that lasted for three minutes [3] but was ultimately found not to have had any effect on the outcome. [1] Amidst this, First Officer Davidge, who had been flying C-GMXQ out, reported that he was losing hydraulics. [1] The crew only became aware of the fire when a flight attendant rushed into the cockpit reporting "smoke in the back ... real bad". [3] [1] Shortly afterwards, Davidge reported that he had lost ailerons, forcing Allan to take control; as Allan took over, the cockpit voice recorder failed. [3] At this moment, the air traffic controller realized that Flight 2120 was not the Saudia flight and was in trouble, and directed them towards the runway. Allan subsequently contacted air traffic control multiple times, among his pre-mortem communications being a request for emergency vehicles. [3]

Sadiq Abubakar III International Airport airport

Sadiq Abubakar III International Airport or Sultan Saddik Abubakar Airport is an airport serving Sokoto, the capital of the Sokoto State in Nigeria. Arik Air does daily operation from Abuja and Med-View Airlines does flights to Jeddah during Hajj using a 747.

Takeoff transition from being on a surface to being in flight

Takeoff is the phase of flight in which an aerospace vehicle goes from the ground to flying in the air.

Saudia, also known as Saudi Arabian Airlines, is the national carrier airline of Saudi Arabia, based in Jeddah. The airline's main operational base is at King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah. King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh and King Fahd International Airport in Dammam are secondary hubs. The airline is the third largest in the Middle East in terms of revenue, behind Emirates and Qatar Airways. It operates domestic and international scheduled flights to over 85 destinations in the Middle East, Africa, Asia, Europe and North America. Domestic and international charter flights are operated, mostly during the Ramadan and the Hajj season. Saudia is a member of the Arab Air Carriers Organization and joined the SkyTeam airline alliance on 29 May 2012.

When the aircraft was about 18 kilometres (11 mi) from the airport and at an altitude of 671 metres (2,201 ft), a point where the landing gear could conceivably have been lowered, it began to experience an inflight breakup and a number of bodies fell from it, indicating that the fire by that time had consumed, at least partially, the cabin floor. [3] Just 2,875 metres (9,432 ft) short of the runway, the melting aircraft finally became uncontrollable and crashed, [3] killing whatever portion of the 261 occupants on board—including 247 passengers—had not already suffocated or fallen out of the aircraft. [2] [6] [7] Nine of the fourteen crew were identified, but "no attempt was made to identify the passengers". [3]

As of July 2017, the accident remains the deadliest crash involving a Douglas DC-8, [8] as well as the second-deadliest accident taking place on Saudi Arabian soil, [9] after Saudia Flight 163. [10]

Saudia Flight 163 aviation accident

Saudia Flight 163 was a scheduled Saudia passenger flight which caught fire after takeoff from Riyadh International Airport en route to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on 19 August 1980. All 287 passengers and 14 crew on board the Lockheed L-1011-200 TriStar died from smoke inhalation after the aircraft made a successful emergency landing at Riyadh.


Prior to departure, the lead mechanic had noticed that the "#2 and #4 tyre pressures were below the minimum for flight dispatch" [6] and attempted to inflate them, but no nitrogen gas was readily available, and the project manager, unwilling to accept a delay, disregarded the problem and readied the aircraft for dispatch. [3] As the aircraft was taxiing, the transfer of the load from the under-inflated No. 2 tire to the No. 1 tire on the same portside axle resulted "in overdeflection, over-heating and structural weakening of the No. 1 tyre." [6] "The No. 1 tyre failed very early on the take-off roll", followed almost immediately by the No. 2. [6] The latter stopped rotating "for reasons not established", and the subsequent friction of the wheel assembly with the runway generated sufficient heat to start a self-sustaining fire. [6] The crew realised there was a problem, but not the nature or seriousness of it. The aircraft was not equipped with fire or heat sensors in the wheel assembly. The first officer was recorded remarking, "We gotta flat tire, you figure?" [3] According to Canadian Transportation Safety Board members interviewed for an episode of Mayday about the accident, standard procedures regarding tire failure during the takeoff roll on the DC-8 did not include rejecting takeoff for tire or wheel failures, [1] so the captain proceeded with the takeoff.

Due to common jet aircraft design, the accident became inevitable the moment the landing gear was retracted, mere seconds after takeoff and long before an emergency became apparent. [1] When this occurred, "burning rubber was brought into close proximity with hydraulic and electrical system components", causing the failure of both hydraulic and pressurisation systems that led to structural damage and loss of control of the aircraft. [11] [3] The Transportation Safety Board later concluded, "had the crew left the landing gear extended, the accident might have been averted". [3] Fuel, "probably introduced as a result of 'burn through' of the centre fuel tank", [6] intensified the fire, which eventually consumed the cabin floor. People began falling out of the aircraft when their seat harnesses burned through. "Despite the considerable destruction to the airframe, the aircraft appeared to have been controllable until just before the crash." [3]

It was discovered during the investigation that mechanics had known about the under-inflated tires since 7 July but the project manager, who had no relevant training to inform his decisions, had prevented maintenance on the tires because the aircraft was behind schedule, leading them to record false pressure readings in the log to make the aircraft seem airworthy. This meant that the cockpit crew was not aware of information that not only had serious safety implications, but that colleagues were aware of but Nationair executives had pressured them into withholding. [1]


Soon after the accident, a group of Toronto-based Nationair flight attendants pooled funds to create a memorial plaque, inscribed with the names of the victims. The memorial, complete with a cherry tree planted to commemorate their colleagues who died in Jeddah, was given a permanent home at the head office of the Greater Toronto Airports Authority. [12]

The aircrash, combined with Nationair's poor reputation for on-time service and mechanical problems, led to serious problems with public image and reliability among tour operators. These difficulties were compounded when Nationair locked out its unionised flight attendants and proceeded to replace them with strikebreakers on 19 November 1991. The lock-out lasted 15 months and by the time it ended in early 1993, Nationair found itself in severe financial trouble. At the time, Nationair owed the Canadian government millions of dollars in unpaid landing fees. Creditors began seizing aircraft and demanded cash up front for services. The company was declared bankrupt in May 1993, owing CDN$75 million. [13]

In 1997, Robert Obadia, owner of Nationair and its parent company Nolisair, pleaded guilty to eight counts of fraud in relation to the company's activities. [14]


An episode of Mayday entitled "Under Pressure" covered this accident. [1]

See also

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In aviation, an accident is defined by the Convention on International Civil Aviation Annex 13 as an occurrence associated with the operation of an aircraft, which takes place from the time any person boards the aircraft with the intention of flight until all such persons have disembarked, and in which a) a person is fatally or seriously injured, b) the aircraft sustains significant damage or structural failure, or c) the aircraft goes missing or becomes completely inaccessible. Annex 13 defines an incident as an occurrence, other than an accident, associated with the operation of an aircraft that affects or could affect the safety of operation.

This is a list of aviation-related events from 1980:

Arrow Air Flight 1285

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The Douglas DC-7 is a transport aircraft built by the Douglas Aircraft Company from 1953 to 1958. It was the last major piston engine-powered transport made by Douglas, being developed shortly after the earliest jet airliner—the de Havilland Comet—entered service and only a few years before the jet-powered Douglas DC-8 first flew. Like other aircraft in Douglas's collection of propeller-driven aircraft, examples remain in service in the present day, albeit in significantly lower numbers than the far more successful DC-3 and DC-6.

King Abdulaziz International Airport international airport serving Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

King Abdulaziz International Airport (KAIA) is an airport located 19 km to the north of Jeddah. Named after King Abdulaziz Al Saud and inaugurated in 1981, the airport is the busiest airport of Saudi Arabia and the third-largest airport in the kingdom. The airport's Hajj Terminal was specially built for Muslim pilgrims going to Mecca annually on the Hajj. It is one of the largest in the world, and can handle 80,000 passengers at the same time.

Air Canada Flight 189 1978 plane crash of an Air Canada DC-9-32 on takeoff at Toronto Pearson International Airport, Ontario, Canada

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Pakistan International Airlines Flight 740 Aviation accident

Pakistan International Airlines Flight 740 was a Hajj pilgrimage flight from Kano, Nigeria to Karachi, Pakistan with an intermediate stopover in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Operated by Pakistan International Airlines, on 26 November 1979, the Boeing 707-340C serving the route crashed shortly after takeoff from Jeddah International Airport. All 156 people on board were killed.

Mexicana Flight 940 Aviation accident

Mexicana Flight 940, operated by Mexicana Airlines, was a scheduled international flight from Mexico City–Puerto Vallarta–Mazatlán–Los Angeles on March 31, 1986, utilizing a Boeing 727-200 registered as XA-MEM, when the plane crashed into El Carbón, a mountain in the rugged Sierra Madre Occidental mountain range northwest of Mexico City, killing everyone on board. With 167 deaths, the crash of Flight 940 is the deadliest aviation disaster to occur on Mexican soil, and the deadliest involving a Boeing 727.

United Airlines Flight 173 aviation accident

United Airlines Flight 173 was a scheduled flight from John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City to Portland International Airport in Portland, Oregon, with a scheduled stop in Denver, Colorado. On December 28, 1978, the aircraft flying this route ran out of fuel while troubleshooting a landing gear problem and crashed in a suburban Portland neighborhood near NE 157th Avenue and East Burnside Street killing 10 people.

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Saudia Flight 162 Aviation accident

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Martinair Flight 138 aviation accident

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  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 "Under Pressure". Mayday (Air Crash Investigation) (television program). Cineflex, National Geographic Channel.
  2. 1 2 3 "Headlines – Confusion over Saudi DC-8 crash". Flight International . 140 (4276): 4. 17–23 July 1991. ISSN   0015-3710. Archived from the original on 13 January 2015. Retrieved 15 June 2012.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 "Tire Failure on Takeoff Sets Stage for Fatal Inflight Fire and Crash" (PDF). Flight Safety Foundation. September 1993. Archived from the original (PDF) on 12 July 2018.
  4. "Nationair Crash Memorial Page". Nationair Canada History on the Web. 27 January 2013. Archived from the original on 10 October 2014. Retrieved 27 June 2013.[ unreliable source? ]
  5. William Fowler. "Under Pressure". Mayday (Air Crash Investigation) (television program). Cineflex, National Geographic Channel. The DC-8 was the primary aircraft for Nationair.
  6. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Accident description at the Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved on 11 April 2013.
  7. "Catastrophe aérienne de Djeddah: 261 morts" [Jeddah air crash: 261 dead]. Le Monde (in French). 13 July 1991. Archived from the original on 15 June 2012. Retrieved 15 June 2012.
  8. "Accident record for the Douglas DC-8". Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved 30 July 2017.
  9. "Aviation accidents record for Saudi Arabia". Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved 30 July 2017.
  10. Accident descriptionfor HZ-AHK at the Aviation Safety Network . Retrieved on 24 June 2012.
  11. "Airline safety review – Fatal accidents: Non-scheduled passenger flights" (PDF). Flight International : 22. 29 January – 4 February 1992. Archived from the original on 15 June 2012. Retrieved 15 June 2012.
  12. "Anniversary of Nationair plane crash passes quietly". CTV News. The Canadian Press. 10 July 2011. Archived from the original on 15 August 2013. Retrieved 11 September 2014.
  13. "Nationair plie bagages" (in French). CBC Digital Archives. 12 May 1993. Archived from the original on 19 March 2014.
  14. "Robert Obadia doit verser 234 000 $ à ses créanciers". Radio-Canada Nouvelles (in French). 21 August 1998. Archived from the original on 24 December 2013. Retrieved 15 August 2013.