Constellation PH-TEN

Mauchline / Tarbolton, Ayrshire



PAGE 3: Official Inquiry Report


Probable Cause

The Official Inquiry Report recorded the following as contributory causes of the accident:

  • The failure of the ground authorities to inform the Nijmegen of the deterioration in the weather.

  • The failure of the crew to time their flight downwind of the runway.

  • The errors in the official KLM approach chart the crew had relied on. It emerged these charts had been copied from war-era United States Air Force charts, which upon subsequent examination were also found to be faulty. The court of enquiry was astonished to find that KLM had relied on maps from a foreign authority when detailed and correct maps were available from the Ordnance Survey.

Again, the Report noted that the high tension electricity pylons were not equipped with obstruction lights (red hazard warning lights) to warn approaching aircraft of their presence.


In summary, the Official Inquiry brought to light the fact that Captain Parmentier had not been briefed adequately or accurately on current weather conditions by Approach Control at Prestwick. The pilot was under the impression that cloud cover for approach to runway 26 was above the minimum safe altitude for final approach and landing (700ft / 213m). In fact, on that night, the cloud ceiling descended to about 300ft / 91.4m—a completely unsafe level for a night approach and landing on runway 26.

Thus, the Official Inquiry determined the following Probable Causes of the accident:

  1. That when the pilot started his landing manoeuvre for runway 26 of Prestwick Airport the weather conditions were already below the limits for this manoeuvre but that from the weather forecasts received this could not be known to him and that this could not be personally judged at the time.

  2. That, although the landing on runway 26 under the weather conditions, as far as these were known to the pilot, required the greatest caution, the pilot could not be blamed for having commenced that landing procedure.

  3. That flying too long on the downwind-leg of runway 26 caused the accident.

  4. That, if no unknown circumstances contributed to the extension of the flight on the downwind-leg of runway 26, the extension was due to the delayed action of the pilot after he lost visual approach.

  5. That it was not impossible that a stronger wind that the pilot accounted for contributed to the extension of the flight on the downwind-leg of runway 26.

  6. That the possibility of other circumstances as mentioned under 4 could not be ruled out, but that no data was available which could give cause for the supposition that they contributed to the extension of the flight at a low altitude on the downwind-leg of runway 26.




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