Henan Airlines Flight 8387 was a regularly scheduled domestic flight between Harbin Taiping International Airport (HRB) and Yichun Mingyueshan Airport (YIC) in China.
The route from Harbin to Yichun. Image GCmaps.
On the night of August 24, 2010, the two-year-old Brazilian-built Embraer ERJ 190-100 LR registration B-3130 crashed while on final approach, killing 44 of the 91 people aboard the aircraft. The crash goes into the record books as the first fatal accident and hull loss of an Embraer E190.
The E-190 was two years old
On August 24, 2010, Flight 8387 departed Harbin Airport at 20:51 for the 1,393-mile flight north to Yichun in Jiangxi Province, China. Piloting the flight was 40-year-old captain Qi Quanjun and 27-year-old first office Zhu Jianzhou. The aircraft was a two-year-old Embraer E-190 that had flown 5,109 hours and had completed 4,712 flight cycles.
At 21:10, the crew received a weather report from Yichun Airport that said visibility was 9,600 feet. Six minutes later, this was changed to report that Yichun Airport was engulfed in dense fog. Ten minutes later, the flight crew confirmed they would make a VOR / DME approach to Runway 30. At 21:28, Yichun tower told the pilots that while vertical visibility was OK, horizontal visibility was not. At 21:28, the plane overflew the airport and was seen by the airport tower. At 21:33, the aircraft turned for its final approach, and the autopilot was disengaged.
The pilots failed to abort the landing
At 21:38 aural height warning began, and while still unable to see the runway, the aircraft crashed into the ground rather than do a go-around. According to eyewitnesses, the plane crashed slightly under a mile short of the runway and caught on fire. Local officials reported that the aircraft had broken in two and that some passengers managed to escape through the gap in the broken fuselage.
The aircraft involved in the accident. Photo: Xu Zheng via Wikimedia Commons.
Rescue crews were dispatched and immediately began searching for survivors despite being hampered by the fog. Henan Airlines canceled all its flights following the accident and fired its general manager. In response to the crash, other Chinese airlines reviewed their safety procedures and pilots’ training.
The investigation into the crash
Both the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) and the aircraft’s manufacturer, Embraer, dispatched teams of investigators to the crash site. The American National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) also sent a representative to China as the plane’s engines were American-built General Electric CF34s. Flight recorders were recovered from the crash and sent to Beijing for analysis.
Early on in the investigation, the focus was on the pilot’s qualifications as nearly 100 pilots flying for Henan Airlines’ parent company Shenzhen Airlines, lied about their flying experience.
The investigation concluded that the captain had disengaged the autopilot and tried to land the plane despite the poor visibility. In addition to this, they had descended below the minimum descent altitude without being able to see the runway. They carried on when the aircraft’s altimeter call-outs indicated that the airplane was close to the ground rather than abort the landing.
Captain Qi was sentenced to three years in prison for his role in the accident.