MIAMI — A 38-year-old Boeing 737-200, belonging to Mexican charter airline Aerolíneas Damojh, S.A. (EasySky Airlines) has crashed moments after taking off from Havana’s José Martí International Airport (HAV).
The aircraft was operating flight CU972 on behalf of Cubana de Aviacion from HAV to Holguin (HOL).
It is reported that 104 people were on board the plane, including two children and an infant.
Local media reports that three occupants survived and are in critical condition.
— Mario Morínigo Moray (@mmmoray) May 19, 2018
Eyewitness account says that a large fireball followed by a towering plume of smoke was visible near the airport on the outskirts of the Cuban capital.
According to Airlive, the aircraft crashed at 12:30 pm local time near a high school campus on the east side of the island.
We are aware of news reports out of Cuba and are closely monitoring the situation.
— Boeing Airplanes (@BoeingAirplanes) May 18, 2018
Boeing issued a Tweet remarking that it is aware of the accident and will monitor the situation.
38 years, 14 carriers
Initial reports listed the crashed aircraft as XA-UMQ (MSN 24103 • LN 1565), belonging to Mexican charter airline GlobalAir.
However, in a report published by the Mexican Secretariat of Communications for Transport, a corrected statement was issued indicating that the aircraft was, in fact, XA-UHZ.
The plane, a Boeing 737-201ADV (MSN 21816 • LN 592), was originally delivered to Piedmont Airlines in 1979.
Later on, it operated for a myriad of carriers, including US Airways, Royal Airlines, Canada 3000, the US Navy, Magnicharters, National Airways Cameroon, Avolar, Benin Golf Air, Aero Caribbean, Global Air, SINAMI, and EasySky Airlines in Mexico since 2014.
The Plane was equipped with two Pratt & Whitney JT8D-9A engines.
This charter airline was founded in 1990 and currently operates a fleet of three airplanes: two Boeing 737-300s and the crashed 737-200.
The airline is a non-regular registered carrier with wet-lease capabilities.
On today’s flight, all the crew were non-Cuban nationals.
Cubana: A Decent Safety Record
Despite its aging fleet and operational constraints, Cubana had a decent safety record.
Its last crash with casualties occurred in 1999 when a Yak-42D crashed before landing in Valencia, Venezuela, leaving 22 casualties.
Breaking: Cuban State media is reporting that at least 100 people are dead following a plane crash in Havana, Cuba. pic.twitter.com/b5WbkX005a
— PM Breaking News (@PMBreakingNews) May 18, 2018
The Cuban flag carrier has been facing operational issues because of technical woes at its fleet.
Cubana operates a fleet of 16 aircraft, composed of two ATR-72, six Antonov An-158s, four Ilyushin Il-96s, and four Tupolev Tu-204s.
Cuban aviation authorities recently ordered the grounding of the six AN-158s, after citing maintenance and operational issues.
The airline has had to lease Airbus A320s from Lithuanian charter company Avion Express.
But, as the Cuban carrier fell behind the leasing payments, Avion Express has opted to cancel some of these contracts, forcing Cubana to lease the Boeing 737-200 from the Mexican charter airline alternatively.
According to several news outlets, at least 100 people were killed in today’s accident, with at least four survivors found among the wreckage.