ASN Aircraft accident Boeing 747-209B B-18255 Penghu islands, Taiwan [Taiwan Strait]
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Status:Accident investigation report completed and information captured
Date:Saturday 25 May 2002
Type:Silhouette image of generic B742 model; specific model in this crash may look slightly different
Boeing 747-209B
Operator:China Airlines
Registration: B-18255
MSN: 21843/386
First flight: 1979-07-16 (22 years 11 months)
Total airframe hrs:64394
Engines: 4 Pratt & Whitney JT9D-7AW
Crew:Fatalities: 19 / Occupants: 19
Passengers:Fatalities: 206 / Occupants: 206
Total:Fatalities: 225 / Occupants: 225
Aircraft damage: Destroyed
Aircraft fate: Written off (damaged beyond repair)
Location:45 km (28.1 mls) NE off Penghu islands, Taiwan [Taiwan Strait] (   Pacific Ocean)
Phase: En route (ENR)
Nature:International Scheduled Passenger
Departure airport:Taipei-Chiang Kai Shek International Airport (TPE/RCTP), Taiwan
Destination airport:Hong Kong-Chek Lap Kok International Airport (HKG/VHHH), Hong Kong
Boeing 747-209B B-18255 was scheduled to fly flight CI611 Taipei-Hong Kong during its last day in service for China Airlines before being sold to Orient Thai Airlines.
Weather conditions at Taipei that afternoon where fine: sunny weather, a temperature of 28deg C and easterly winds at a speed of 9 knots.
At 14:38 Taipei Delivery cleared Flight 611 to Hong Kong: "Dynasty six one one cleared to Hong Kong Airport via Jessy one departure after Jessy direct to Chali Makung alpha one maintain flight level two six zero expect flight level three five zero at Makung squawk two six six one". The gate closed around 14:50, ten minutes after the scheduled departure time and the crew requested ground start and pushback from stand B2. At 14:57 pushback was completed and the aircraft taxied to runway 06. Ten minutes later the aircraft had taxied into position and was cleared for take off. While climbing through 1600 feet the crew contacted Taipei Approach and received clearance to climb to and maintain FL260 and proceed direct to Chali. At 15.16, while climbing through FL187, Dynasty 611 contacted Taipei Control. The Flight was cleared to climb and maintain FL350 and proceed from Chali direct to Kadlo. Some 13 minutes later, while approaching 35,000 feet, the aircraft disappeared off radar screens. Wreckage and bodies were found at sea, about 45 km Northeast off the Penghu islands. The flight probably disintegrated at high altitude since other debris was found near Changhua, about 45 kilometers from the crash site.

Probable Cause:

1. Based on the recordings of CVR and FDR, radar data, the dado panel open-close positions, the wreckage distribution, and the wreckage examinations, the in-flight breakup of CI611, as it approached its cruising altitude, was highly likely due to the structural failure in the aft lower lobe section of the fuselage.
2. In February 7 1980, the accident aircraft suffered a tail strike occurrence in Hong Kong. The aircraft was ferried back to Taiwan on the same day un-pressurized and a temporary repair was conducted the day after. A permanent repair was conducted on May 23 through 26, 1980.
3. The permanent repair of the tail strike was not accomplished in accordance with the Boeing SRM, in that the area of damaged skin in Section 46 was not removed (trimmed) and the repair doubler did not extend sufficiently beyond the entire damaged area to restore the structural strength.
4. Evidence of fatigue damage was found in the lower aft fuselage centered about STA 2100, between stringers S-48L and S-49L, under the repair doubler near its edge and outside the outer row of securing rivets. Multiple Site Damage (MSD), including a 15.1-inch through thickness main fatigue crack and some small fatigue cracks were confirmed. The 15.1-inch crack and most of the MSD cracks initiated from the scratching damage associated with the 1980 tail strike incident.
5. Residual strength analysis indicated that the main fatigue crack in combination with the Multiple Site Damage (MSD) were of sufficient magnitude and distribution to facilitate the local linking of the fatigue cracks so as to produce a continuous crack within a two-bay region (40 inches). Analysis further indicated that during the application of normal operational loads the residual strength of the fuselage would be compromised with a continuous crack of 58 inches or longer length. Although the ASC could not determine the length of cracking prior to the accident flight, the ASC believes that the extent of hoop-wise fretting marks found on the doubler, and the regularly spaced marks and deformed cladding found on the fracture surface suggest that a continuous crack of at least 71 inches in length, a crack length considered long enough to cause structural separation of the fuselage, was present before the in-flight breakup of the aircraft.
6. Maintenance inspection of B-18255 did not detect the ineffective 1980 structural repair and the fatigue cracks that were developing under the repair doubler. However, the time that the fatigue cracks propagated through the skin thickness could not be determined.

Accident investigation:

Investigating agency: ASC Taiwan
Status: Investigation completed
Duration: 2 years and 9 months
Accident number: ASC-AOR-05-02-001
Download report: Final report


Fuselage failure
Loss of control

» SKYbrary 
» Aviation Safety Council
» Boeing
» Central News Agency
» Reuters

Follow-up / safety actions
Taiwan grounded China Airlines' four remaining Boeing 747-200 cargo aircraft for safety checks May 26.
Preliminary results of the investigation into the May 25, 2002 accident of a China Airlines Boeing 747 of Taiwan led the NTSB to issue four safety recommendations on April 8, 2003. They address possible improper repairs to the airplane pressure vessel which may be hiding damage, allowing the development of multiple-site fatigue damage and fatigue fracturing that could lead to structural failure.

ASC issued 22 Safety Recommendations
NTSB issued 4 Safety Recommendations

Show all...


photo of Boeing-747-209B-
weather satellite image
photo of Boeing-747-209B-B-18255
accident date: 25-05-2002
type: Boeing 747-209B
registration: B-18255
photo of Boeing-747-209B-B-18255
accident date: 25-05-2002
type: Boeing 747-209B
registration: B-18255

This map shows the airport of departure and the intended destination of the flight. The line between the airports does not display the exact flight path.
Distance from Taipei-Chiang Kai Shek International Airport to Hong Kong-Chek Lap Kok International Airport as the crow flies is 801 km (501 miles).
Accident location: Exact; as reported in the official accident report.

This information is not presented as the Flight Safety Foundation or the Aviation Safety Network’s opinion as to the cause of the accident. It is preliminary and is based on the facts as they are known at this time.
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