The Boeing 737-500’s First Hull Loss

Today marks 29 years since the crash of Asiana Airlines flight 733, which crashed while attempting to land in Mokpo, South Korea. The accident was the first hull loss involving the Boeing 737-500, an aircraft type that had first flown just over four years Let’s take a closer look at how exactly the crash unfolded.

The flight and aircraft involved

Asiana Airlines flight 733 was a scheduled domestic service that originated at Seoul’s Gimpo International Airport (GMP). This facility remains a key hub for Asiana today, although it has since been replaced as the Korean capital’s primary airport by Incheon International (ICN). In any case, it is still the country’s third-largest airport.

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The flight’s destination was Mokpo Airport (MPK), in the country’s southwest. Initially opened to serve as a stopover on the popular Seoul-Jeju route, this facility now serves solely as a military base, with Mokpo’s commercial traffic having made use of the nearby Muan International Airport (MWX) since 2007.

There were 110 passengers and six crew members onboard flight 733 when it took off on its fateful journey 29 years ago today. The aircraft tasked with taking these 116 occupants the length of the South Korean mainland was HL7229, an ex-Maersk Air Boeing 737- 500. According to data from ATDB.aero, it was just over three years old, having first been delivered to Maersk Air in June 1990.


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Three failed landing attempts

According to the Aviation Safety Network, Asiana Airlines flight 733 departed Seoul at 14:37, with the weather there at the time reported as having been clear. However, this could not be said for the service’s destination, where heavy rain and strong winds made for challenging conditions that worsened during the flight.

Indeed, as the Boeing 737-500 made its way southwards towards Mokpo, conditions were said to have deteriorated to a point at which they went below minimum visibility levels. Nonetheless, the flight pushed on, and made its first landing attempt at 15:24 local time. After this failed, a second was made at 15:28.

This, too, was unsuccessful, and a third and final failed attempt was made at 15:38. Following this, the aircraft disappeared from the radar at 15:41, and crashed into a ridge on Mount Ungeo at an altitude of 800 feet seven minutes later. The location of the impact was sintered around 10 km (5.4 NM) from Mokpo Airport.

In the 29 years that have followed, the 737-500 has only suffered one accident deadlier than Asiana flight 733. Photo: Getty Images

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The aftermath

Sadly, the impact with the mountainside resulted in the deaths of 68 people onboard the aircraft, including both of its pilots. The crash remained the deadliest involving the 737-500 until September 2008, when 88 people lost their lives on Aeroflot flight 821. It is also the second-deadliest crash in South Korean history.

As for the cause of the crash, an investigation found that the flight was well below the minimum safe altitude (1,600 feet) at the time of its impact, causing blame to be placed upon its captain. Mokpo Airport’s lack of an instrument landing system ( ILS) was also cited as having contributed to causing the crash, by prompting the pilots to make excessive landing attempts in challenging conditions.

Source: Aviation Safety Network

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