28th anniversary of Avianca Flight 52

On January 25th, 1990, Avianca Flight 52 crashed.
Avianca Flight 52 was a regularly scheduled flight from Bogotá Colombia to New York City (JFK). The Boeing 707 flying this route ran out of fuel on approach to John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK), causing it to crash on a hillside in a wooden/suburban area in the town of Cove Neck, NY, on the north shore of Long Island. 8 of the 9 crew members, and 65 of the 149 passengers onboard were killed.

The flight left with more than enough fuel. While close to JFK, the flight was placed in three holding patterns. Due to poor communication between the pilots and the ATC, as well as an inadequate management of the fuel load by the pilots, they became critically low on fuel. This situation was not recognized as an emergency by the controllers because of the failure of the pilots to use the word “emergency”. They flight attempted to make a landing at JFK, but bad weather, coupled with poor communication and inadequate management of the aircraft, forced them to go around. The flight ran out of fuel before it was able to make a second landing attempt. The airplane crashed approximately 20 miles (32 km) from JFK.

Crash summary

The JFK tower controller asked the flight to climb to 2,000 feet (610 m) and make a left turn. At 21:24:06, the captain asked the first officer to “tell them we are in [an] emergency.”[1]:10–11 The first officer told the JFK tower controller that “we’ll try once again[;] we’re running out of fuel,” to which the controller replied, “okay.”[1]:10–11 A few seconds later, the captain again told the first officer to “advise him we are [in an] emergency” and asked if he did so. The first officer replied, “Yes sir, I already advised him.”[1]:10–11 The JFK controller directed the flight to contact the NY TRACON approach controller once more at 21:24:39.[1]:12 The TRACON controller asked the flight to climb once more to 3,000 feet (910 m). The captain asked the first officer again to “advise him we don’t have fuel.”[1]:12 The first officer replied, “Climb and maintain three thousand and ah we’re running out of fuel sir.”[1]:12 The captain once again asked whether the first officer had advised the controller of the fuel emergency, and the first officer replied, “Yes sir. I already advise him[;] hundred and eighty on the heading[;] we are going to maintain three thousand feet and he’s going to get us back.”[1]:12

A minute later, the controller instructed the flight to turn to the northeast and asked the flight crew if they had enough fuel to be directed fifteen miles from the airport. First Officer Klotz replied, “I guess so thank you very much.”[1]:12 At 21:29:11, Klotz asked the controller if he “can give us a final now…?”[1]:12 The controller said, “affirmative sir[;] turn left heading zero four zero.”[1]:12 At 21:30:12, the controller cleared another aircraft for landing.[1]:235 Klotz briefly thought the clearance was directed at Avianca and began to tell Captain Caviedes to change course before the controller corrected him. The controller then asked Avianca to climb to 3,000 feet (910 m). Klotz replied, “negative sir we just running out of fuel we okay three thousand now okay.”[1]:12 The controller continued to direct the flight northward, away from the airport. At 21:31:01, the controller said, “Okay and you’re number two for the approach[;] I just have to give you enough room so you make it without ah having to come out again.”[1]:12

At 21:32:38, the cockpit voice recorder (CVR) recorded a temporary interruption in power. A second later, Flight Engineer Moyano exclaimed, “Flame out[;] flame out on engine number four.”[1]:5 The CVR recorded another interruption in power one second after that, and Moyano said, “Flame out on engine number three[;] essential on number two or number one.”[1]:5 The captain acknowledged. At 21:32:49, Klotz radioed the controller, informing him that the flight had “just ah lost two engines[,] and … we need priority please.”[1]:5 The controller instructed the flight to fly southwest to intercept the localizer.[1]:5 Klotz acknowledged this. The flight crew selected the ILS. At 21:33:04, the controller informed the flight that they were fifteen miles from the outer marker and cleared them for an ILS approach on runway 22L. Klotz acknowledged. That was the final radio transmission from Flight 52. Caviedes asked if the ILS had been selected. Klotz replied, “It is ready on two” at 21:33:23. One second later, the CVR stopped recording.[1]:13 At 21:34:00, the controller tried to radio the flight, asking, “You have enough fuel to make it to the airport?”[1]:13 There was no response.

The NTSB report estimates that around this time, the flight crashed.[1]:13 The aircraft descended without power, clipped several trees and posts, and crashed onto a hill with a 24° slope in Cove Neck, New York.[1]:33 The fuselage partially fragmented into three distinct pieces. The cockpit and forward cabin separated from the rest of the airframe and were hurled over the crest of the hill, coming to a stop 90 feet (27 m) from the rest of the wreckage. The rest of the fuselage stopped within 25 feet (7.6 m) after impact. The main fuselage came to rest on the upslope of the hill, facing south, with the forward end extending over the crest of the hill. The right side of the forward end of the fuselage fractured a residential wooden deck. (Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avianca_Flight_52)

click on this picture and zoom in on this picture for the event details!

While the plane was making it’s first approach, it was over northern Nassau County before it turned to line up with 22L. My dad remembered looking out of the windows of our house and seeing the plane overhead.

The town that I used to live in (Bayville), the FD was called to assist on the scene.

Former president Teddy Roosevelt’s large house (Sagamore Hill) in Cove Neck was used as the command post for emergency services. It was the largest multi-aid, multi agency incident in Nassau County history at the time. (the picture below is not his house)

photo source

Here’s a video containing the audio from the ATC.


I watched the Air Crash Investigation on this flight, and boy was I on the edge of my seat. It makes it worse when you know they had so many opportunities to be able to fix it and land safely…


Same, I watched the ACI for this aircraft, and you’re right, they did have many choices that would’ve saved the plane


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