Optimum Aviation Antonov An-26 Crashes In South Sudan

A cargo plane carrying five crew members crashed today near Juba International Airport in South Sudan. The aircraft, an Antonov An-26, was taking off from the airport for Maban in South Sudan when the crew declared an emergency just three minutes into the flight. The aircraft came down less than one nautical mile from the end of the runway and burst into flames. All five crew members perished.

An-26 antonov
An Antonov An-26 has crashed in South Sudan, killing five. Photo: Getty Images

An-26 crashes three minutes into flight

As reported today in the Aviation Herald, South Sudan has seen another fatal plane crash. An Antonov An-26, registered TR-NGT, was performing a cargo flight from Juba to Maban, reportedly carrying several barrels of diesel and some other small items. Onboard were five crew, including the pilots.

The aircraft took off from runway 13 at approximately 10:33 local time this morning. However, the crew rapidly ran into problems, declaring an emergency just three minutes later. At 10:37, the aircraft came down just 0.7 NM from the end of runway 13, on the other side of the White Nile river.

The airport’s country director, Kur Kuol, told the EastAfrican that,

“The event happened this morning as the plane was taking off at 10.36 am heading to Maban in the Upper Nile State. Rescue team from the South Sudan Red Cross went there to search. The deceased are identified as two Russian, two Sudanese and one South Sudanese.”

Reports from South Sudan’s Red Cross noted that the five bodies were burned beyond recognition, suggesting there was an immediate and massive fire. Smoke plumes could be seen for miles around, and the crash site was barely identifiable as an aircraft.

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Trouble in South Sudan

South Sudan has suffered from a long and debilitation conflict for more than ten years, which has taken resources away from building good infrastructure such as roads between its towns. The lack of land transportation options means many essential goods are flown between conurbations, often in older and not well-maintained aircraft.

In the last few years, several fatal crashes have been recorded in the country. In March, ten people died when a Let L-140 passenger plane crashed. That followed a crash of an An-26 cargo plane in August last year, when reportedly up to 17 people perished. Earlier this year, a propellor fell off an An-26 on approach to Juba. Luckily nobody was hurt.

According to the EastAfrican, 87 people have died in aviation accidents since the country gained independence in 2011. It says that IATA wrote to the country’s civil aviation authority in February this year, calling for the implementation of safety standards. At the time, it said that multiple interventions had failed to make any significant improvements in safety performance. Following today’s incident, there is likely to be a renewed focus on aviation safety in South Sudan.