The National Transportation Safety Board found that a National Airlines Boeing 747 freighter crashed on takeoff from Bagram Airbase, Afghanistan, because the five large military vehicles it was carrying were inadequately restrained. This led to at least one vehicle moving rearward, crippling key hydraulic systems and damaging the horizontal stabilizer components, which rendered the airplane uncontrollable. All seven crewmembers were killed in the April 29, 2013 crash.
Contributing to the accident was the Federal Aviation Administration’s inadequate oversight of National Airlines’ (NAL’s) handling of special cargo loads, such as that being carried on the accident flight. The Boeing 747-400 freighter was carrying five mine-resistant ambush-protected (MRAP) vehicles. There was no evidence found to suggest that the airplane was brought down by an explosive device or hostile acts.
The investigation found that National Airlines’ cargo operations manual not only omitted critical information from Boeing and from the cargo handling system manufacturer about properly securing cargo, but it also contained incorrect restraining methods for special cargo loads.
The Board recommended that the FAA create a certification process for personnel responsible for the loading, restraint, and documentation of special cargo loads on transport-category airplanes. Other recommendations call on the FAA to improve its ability to inspect cargo aircraft operations, specifically those involving special cargo loads.