LANSA Cuzco Crash

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LANSA Cuzco Crash
Date    August 9, 1970
Type   Pilot Error
Site    Cuzco, Peru
Fatalities   99 (2 on ground)
Injuries   1
Aircraft type    Lockheed Electra L-188A
Operator   LANSA
Tail number   OB-R-939
Passengers   92
Crew   8
Survivors   1

The LANSA Cuzco Crash was an aviation accident that took place in Cuzco, Peru. On August 9, 1970, at about 3 PM local time, a Lockheed Electra L-188A 4-engine turboprop registered OB-R-939, bound from Cuzco to Lima, operated by Lineas Aéreas Nacionales Sociedad Anonima (LANSA), carrying 8 crew and 92 passengers, crashed into hilly terrain shortly after takeoff, after losing one of its engines. All but one of the occupants died from injuries sustained from impact forces and post crash fire. Two people on the ground were killed. There were notably 46 American high school exchange students on board, all of whom perished. At the time, the crash was the worst ever in Peru's history.


Over half of the passengers belonged to a single group, sponsored by the Buffalo, New York based International Fellowship Student Exchange Program, consisting of 46 American high school exchange students, along with their teachers and guides, who were returning from a visit to nearby Machu Picchu to their host families in the Lima area. The daughter of the mayor of Lima was also accompanying the group. The Peruvian passengers included a couple on their honeymoon.

August 9, 1970 was a Sunday, and the Cuzco-Lima flight, operated by LANSA, the national Peruvian airline, was originally scheduled to depart Cuzco at 8:30 AM in the morning, but since many of the members of the American group wanted to visit the nearby Pisac native handicraft market prior to leaving for Lima, the airline postponed the flight to a new scheduled departure time of 2:45 PM.

The Quispiquilla Airport, since renamed to Alejandro Velasco Astete International Airport, is located about 3 miles east-southeast of the city of Cuzco, in a small valley high on the Andes mountains, at an altitude of 10,860 feet above mean sea level. Higher mountainous terrain surrounds the single east-west runway airport in all directions. Since it was August, it was winter time in Peru, as in the rest of the southern hemisphere.

Accident sequence

At about 2:55 PM, the four-engine Lockheed Electra L-188A turboprop began its takeoff run to the west. At some point during the takeoff run or initial climb, the number three engine failed and caught fire. The crew continued the takeoff and climb, per standard procedure, using power from the remaining three engines. The pilot radioed the control tower declaring an emergency, and the control tower cleared the flight for an immediate landing. The number three engine was engulfed in flames as the crew retracted the flaps and maneuvered the plane into a left turn back to the runway. The plane entered a 30-45 degree bank, then rapidly lost altitude and crashed into hilly terrain about 1.5 miles west-southwest of the runway. All aboard perished except the copilot, who was badly burned but survived. Two farmers were killed on the ground.


The Peruvian government investigated the accident, and in its final report concluded that the probable cause of the accident was the improper execution of engine-out procedures by the flight crew, with contributing factors of improper loading of the aircraft and improper maintenance procedures by company personnel. There was also evidence of a coverup and falsification of critical maintenance records by LANSA employees during the investigation process. The Peruvian government subsequently fined LANSA and some of its employees, and suspended the airline's operating license for 90 days as a consequence.

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