Do you remember? Air France Flight 296 (F-GFKC) Airbus A320-111 crashed into a forest while performing a low pass over Mulhouse-Habsheim Airport, France

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30 years ago today. Air France Flight 296 was a chartered flight of a new Airbus A320-111 operated by Air France. On June 26, 1988, it crashed while making a low pass over Mulhouse–Habsheim Airport (ICAO airport tcode LFGB) as part of the Habsheim Air Show. The crash, which occurred in front of several thousand spectators, is one of the few crashes of a commercial airliner caught in its entirety on video. The cause of the crash has been the source of major controversy.

This particular flight was not only the A320’s first passenger flight (most of those on-board were journalists and raffle winners), but it was also the first public demonstration of any civilian fly-by-wire aircraft. The low-speed flyover, with landing gear down, was supposed to take place at an altitude of 100 feet (33 metres); instead, the plane performed the flyover at 30 feet, skimmed the treetops of the forest at the end of the runway (which had not been shown on the airport map given to the pilots), and crashed. All the passengers survived the initial impact, but a woman and two children died from smoke inhalation before they were able to escape.

Official reports concluded that the pilots flew too low, too slow, failed to see the forest and accidentally flew into it. The captain, Michel Asseline, disputed the report and claimed an error in the fly-by-wire computer prevented him from applying thrust and pulling up. In the aftermath of the crash, there were allegations that investigators had tampered with evidence, specifically the aircraft’s flight recorders (“black boxes”).

This was the first crash of an A320 aircraft. Read more: wikipedia Air France Flight 296

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