A South West Aviation Antonov An-26 cargo plane crashed after taking off from Juba today. The freighter aircraft was operating a charter service between Juba and Aweil in South Sudan. Initial reports, which cant be confirmed yet, have stated that as many as 17 people have lost their lives. However, one person on board is said to have survived the crash and is in critical condition. Eyewitness accounts suggest that the aircraft lost height shortly after departure and fell in a farm near the suburbs of the country’s capital.
According to CGTN, the crash took place around 9:00 AM local time. Many news reports were initially stating that eight people were on board; however, now it is assumed that there were, in fact, 17 passengers. Many videos and photos from the crash site have circulated social media. Although the wing section is somewhat intact, the fuselage of the aircraft has been destroyed due to impact and fire.
The aircraft, registered YI-AZR, was carrying motorbikes, spare parts, food items, and NGO staff salaries. It is being said that once the news of the crash spread, people rushed to the ground to collect the scattered money. Whether this happened before the rescue operation or not is still unknown.
— Breaking Aviation News & Videos (@breakingavnews) August 22, 2020
A cargo plane, operated by South West Aviation, has crashed this morning after taking off from Juba airport. The Antonov An26 was headed to Wau and Aweil. According to reports, 4 crew members died while one person survived.
Our thoughts are with the victims and their families. pic.twitter.com/pmtFCLlGCQ
— Chidozie Uzoezie (@ChidozieMario) August 22, 2020
As of now, it is unknown as to what led to the crash. Witnesses have suggested that the aircraft suddenly lost power and plunged into the residential area. The weather at Juba was mostly fine when the accident occurred. After assessing the crash site, which is to the South-West of Juba Airport, it is possible that the aircraft was on the downwind leg of a departure. Runway length is probably not one of the factors as 3100m is sufficient for an An-26 to operate safely.
Antonov aircraft, specifically AN-26, have had various crashes in the last few years. In 2017, an An-26 passenger plane coming from Juba caught fire after landing in the city of Wau, and, despite the aircraft being destroyed, all 45 people on board were rescued. A more tragic incident occurred in 2015 when an An-12 cargo plane crashed shortly after taking off from Juba, killing 37.
In 2018, A Russian Air Force AN-26 crashed on approach to Khmeimim airbase in Syria, killing all 39 onboard. In most cases, the reason behind the crash is a technical failure. Obsolete technology and inadequate maintenance are some of the prime factors. In fact, the last AN-26 was built way back in 1986. For this reason, most of the Air Force’s across the world are retiring the type gradually.
Safety standards need improvement
Unlike Airbus and Boeing, companies like Antonov may not invest heavily in global logistics and MRO facilities. Moreover, there are often no standards in place to make sure that old aircraft are replaced by newer technology. Unless local aviation authorities enforce replacement of outdated aircraft, crashes like this are almost imminent.
Have you ever flown on Antonov aircraft? How did you feel?