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How This Insect Caused an Airplane Crash That Killed 189 people

Hello fans, I want to tell you the extraordinary story of an aircraft which was in good flying order except for a blocked pitot tube which caused multiple problems.

On Februay 6, 1996, 176 passengers and 13 crew members boarded a plane in the Dominican Republic for an overnight flight to Frankfurt, Germany. Just before takeoff as the plane rolled down the runway at 11:42 p.m. the pilot noticed a problem with one of the air speed indicators but chose not to abort the flight. It proved to be a fateful decision.

Mud daubers wasp caused airplane crash

Approximately 10 minutes later as the airliner climbed to 4,700 feet, the captain’s air speed indicator began transmitting conflicting information from that of the co-pilot’s, prompting the plane’s auto-pilot to determine that the plane was traveling too fast, gradually raising the nose to slow it down.

As multiple warnings sounded in the cockpit and the two pilot’s attempted to get a handle on their rapidly deteriorating situation, they took control of the plane, but within minutes the 757 crashed into the Atlantic Ocean, killing all 189 people on board.

Mud daubers wasp building its nest

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Investigators concluded that mud dauber wasps blocked the uncovered Pitot tubes which fed the captain’s air speed indicator which caused it to malfunction.

airplane pitot tube

Mud daubers looking for nests choose ones which are more or less tubular; and when they make their nest the mud dries and hardens. A pitot tube is a perfect home for the wasp especially as the 757 was lying idle at the airport for 25 days since its last flight which was more than enough time for the wasp to build its nest in the uncovered pitot tubes.

That is how this tiny insect led to a series of mistakes which brought down the passenger jet leading to the death of 189 people.



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