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Viasa Flight 897

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Title: Viasa Flight 897  
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Viasa Flight 897

Viasa Flight 897
A VIASA Douglas DC-8-53 similar to the one involved in the accident.
Accident summary
Date 30 May 1961 (1961-05-30)
Summary Loss of control
Site Off Lisbon
Passengers 47
Crew 14
Injuries (non-fatal) 0
Fatalities 61 (all)
Survivors 0
Aircraft type Douglas DC-8-53
Aircraft name Fridtjof Nansen
Operator KLM on behalf of Viasa
Registration PH-DCL
Flight origin Fiumicino Airport
1st stopover Barajas Airport
2nd stopover Portela Airport
3rd stopover Santa Maria Airport
Last stopover Portela Airport
Destination Simón Bolívar International Airport

Viasa Flight 897 refers to an international scheduled RomeMadridLisbonSanta MariaCaracas[nb 1] passenger service that crashed into the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Portugal on 30 May 1961, shortly after takeoff from Portela Airport. There were no survivors among the 61 occupants of the aircraft.[1]


Named Fridtjof Nansen, the aircraft involved in the accident was a Douglas DC-8-53, registration PH-DCL, owned by KLM and operated on Viasa's behalf.[2] With constructor's number 45615/131, the airframe was the newest one of the type in KLM's fleet at the time the accident took place; it had entered service a few months earlier, and had accumulated 209 flight hours.[1][4]


The crash of Viasa Flight 897 occurred on the third leg of a trip that originated in Rome, Italy and was scheduled to conclude in Caracas, Venezuela. Intermediate stops were to be made in Madrid, Spain, Lisbon, and on Santa Maria Island.

At the time the airliner lifted off from Lisbon at 01:15 UTC, the nighttime sky had a cloud base of 3,700 feet (1,100 m). A few minutes after take off the DC-8 entered a spiral dive to the left shortly after sending two short messages to Air Traffic Control. The pilot over-corrected to the right and the aircraft struck the sea with a pitch angle of approximately 25° nose down.


The cause for the crash of Viasa Flight 897 was never determined by either Portuguese or Dutch authorities. The official report out of Portugal concluded "Notwithstanding a very thorough, time-consuming investigation, in which many authorities and experts co-operated, it was not possible to establish a probable cause of the accident."

The Netherlands, as state of registry for the aircraft, commented: "Though there are no direct indications in this respect, the Board regards it as possible that the accident was due to the pilot or pilots being misled by instrument failure, in particular of the artificial horizon, or to the pilot having been distracted, so that a serious deviation from the normal flight path was not discovered in time."


At the time it occurred, Flight 897 was the third fatal crash of a big jetliner since they were introduced into service in 1958.[2] It was the worst civilian aviation incident ever to take place in Portugal until the crash of TAP Portugal Flight 425 in 1977.

See also


  1. ^ There exists a discrepancy over the route served by the flight depending upon the source.[1][2] Nevertheless, a July 1961 (1961-07) timetable shows that the route covered by the flight at the time the accident took place actually had its origin in Rome and had Caracas as its final destination, with stopovers at Madrid, Lisbon, and Santa Maria Island.[3]


  1. ^ a b c Accident description for PH-DCL at the Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved on 26 November 2011.
  2. ^ a b c "KLM-Viasa DC-8 tragedy".  
  3. ^ "Viasa Summer time table (Effective 1 July 1961) – Europe to South America". Airline Timetable Images. Archived from the original on 1 May 2012. Retrieved 1 May 2012. 
  4. ^ "Unlucky KLM" (PDF).  

External links

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