August 14-22, 2005

14-22 August 2005: A zoom-out picture of the tail of the Cypriot Helios Airways charter plane lying on a hillside in Grammatiko, 40km north of Athens, marks the spot where the Boeing 737-300 crashed on August 14 last year, killing all 115 passengers and six crew on board. The worst air-disaster in Greek history has baffled investigators from the outset on August 22 when their two-page preliminary report to the transport ministry implied that the doomed airliner had been flying pilotless across the Aegean for nearly three hours before it crashed, with both pilots apparently debilitated by lack of oxygen due to decompression

in the early stages of the flight. The ill-fated Helios flight 522 had been flying from Larnaca, Cyprus, to Prague with a stop in Athens. About 45 minutes before the crash, two Greek airforce F-16 fighter planes were scrambled to intercept the plane. The fighter pilots, who first established visual contact with the plane while it was flying above Kea, reported seeing the co-pilot slumped over the controls, apparently unconscious, and said the pilot was not in his seat. They also reported seeing an unidentified man in the cockpit and oxygen masks dangling in the passenger cabin. Tests on traces of blood found in the wreckage indicate that a Helios flight attendant with flight training, Andreas Prodromou, was the last man conscious in the cockpit when the Helios plane slammed into the mountain. According to the final findings of the investigation submitted to the Cyprus government in May this year, by chief investigator Akrivos Tsolakis, suggest there were technical problems in the doomed plane's pressurisation system with its mode-selector switch set on Manual instead of Auto before the plane's takeoff, something the pilot and co-pilot may not have noticed on time to avert the ensuing decompression. Tsolakis' full report was due to be made public this month after incorporating the comments of other interested parties, including the plane's manufacturer, Boeing Co, and the US National Transport Safety Bureau

Dimitris Yannopoulos

Click here to return to the Series main page

(Posting date 1 September 2006 )

HCSencourages readers to view other articles and releases in our permanent, extensive archives at the URL

2000 Hellenic Communication Service, L.L.C. All Rights Reserved.