The final seconds of an American 747 civilian cargo jet's disastrous takeoff from Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan Monday — resulting in a crash that killed all seven crewmembers — were apparently captured by a dashboard camera. In the video, the aircraft is seen in a steep climb, until it fails to gain altitude and plummets into the earth.
The dashcam video shows the cargo jet, reportedly loaded with military vehicles, slowing in its ascent before making an excruciating turn toward the ground, where it burst into a fireball. The footage was posted at the LiveLeak website, which then had trouble with its servers. A copy was posted on YouTube. Warning: Some viewers may find the images disturbing.
Multiple aviation websites have also posted the video, including The Aviation Herald, which included this account:
"Several observers on the ground reported the National Air Cargo Boeing 747-400 had just lifted off and was climbing through approximately 1200 feet when it's nose sharply rose, the aircraft appeared to have stalled and came down erupting in a blaze... According to a listener on frequency the crew reported the aircraft stalled due to a possible load shift."
Others have suggested that a sudden powerful blast of wind may have disrupted the plane's climb.
In the video, the driver of the vehicle with the dashcam slows and reverses his direction as he sees the plane's nose turn back toward the earth. After the initial blast, he drives toward the crash site across open ground and around fencing, where thick black smoke rises from the wreckage.
At this point, we cannot say with absolute certainty that the haunting video is genuine. But the images agree with photographs and descriptions of the incident. In particular, a commenter named Scott wrote on the Loadstar website that he had witnessed the crash, saying that the plane "looked like it had flattened out to nearly level but had very little or no forward speed" at the point of impact. His description matches the footage.
The dashcam video includes a time stamp of 2013/02/01 — but that could have many explanations, including a lack of continuous power to the unit.
The AP has more information about the doomed flight, and its crew:
"The plane — owned by National Airlines, an Orlando, Florida-based subsidiary of National Air Cargo — was carrying vehicles and other cargo, according to National Air Cargo Vice President Shirley Kaufman. She said those killed were four pilots, two mechanics and a load master, who was responsible for making sure that the weight and balance of the cargo is appropriate. Five of the seven fatalities were from Michigan, said Kaufman."
In a statement, National Airlines said it will work with the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board and Afghan officials to determine why the jet crashed.
"This is a devastating loss for our family and we'll work diligently with authorities to find the cause," said National Airlines President Glen Joerger. "Most importantly, our thoughts and prayers are with our crewmembers and their families."