Caribbean Airlines Flight 523 was a regular, scheduled service between New York’s John. F Kennedy International Airport (JFK) and Cheddi Jagan International Airport (GEO) in Georgetown, Guyana. On 30th July 2011, the aircraft operating on this flight overran the runway at Georgetown due to poor weather conditions, causing seven injuries.
Caribbean Airlines is the state-owned flag carrier of Trinidad and Tobago, but it also operates hubs in Kingston, Jamaica and Georgetown, Guyana in addition to its base in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago. On this particular service between New York and Georgetown, the airline operates a Boeing 737-800.
On the day of the accident, the Boeing 737 registered as 9Y-PBM operated on the service. The aircraft was in good condition and was delivered just four years earlier in 2007. At the time of the crash, the aircraft had only registered 14,861 airframe hours.
While the take-off from New York and the subsequent cruise occurred smoothly, the aircraft failed to stop at the end of the runway during its landing at 01:32 local time. This was because of poor weather conditions. The aircraft crashed through the perimeter fence of the airport and stopped 100 meters after the end of the runway, going over a road and breaking into two sections.
Casualties and aftermath
Guyana’s emergency authorities appeared at the crash site just two hours after the incident occurred. No deaths were reported on the flight, as all 157 passengers and six crew survived the ordeal. However, injured passengers were sent to Diamond Diagnostic Hospital for initial screening and then to Georgetown Public Hospital for treatment of neck, back, and leg injuries. Injuries ranged from aches to broken legs.
The Boeing 737-800 was damaged beyond repair and was therefore written off by Caribbean Airlines. The aircraft, 9Y-PBM, was recorded as the ninth hull loss of the Boeing 737 family, but this incident was the only hull loss of Caribbean Airlines since its founding in 2006.
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Following the crash, the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Kamla Persad-Bissessar visited Guyana to assess the situation, as Caribbean Airlines is owned by the country. The Guyana Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) also invited the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) of the United States and the Trinidad and Tobago Civil Aviation Authority (TTCAA) to assist in the official technical investigation of the crash.
Three years and two months after the initial crash, the Guyana Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) issued a joint report with the NTSB and the TTCAA, citing pilot error as the main cause. However, the GCAA also acknowledged that weather also inadvertently caused the crash, as it impaired the ability of the pilots.
The Caribbean Airlines aircraft was said to have touched down approximately 4,700 feet beyond the runway threshold, which was caused by the captain maintaining excess power during the flare. In addition, the captain did not fully utilize the aircraft’s decelerating capabilities, which resulted in the aircraft overrunning the runway and the aircraft fuselage breaking into two just after the first class area.