At 12:08 p.m. on Friday, May 18, 2018, a Boeing 737-200 jetliner crashed shortly after takeoff from Havana’s José Martí International Airport. Following the crash, at least three passengers were transported to area hospitals in critical condition, the state-run newspaper Granma reported. The flight, Cubana de Aviación Flight 972, plummeted into an agricultural area known as Santiago de las Vegas which is near the airport.
The flight, bound for Holguín, was carrying 104 passengers and nine crew members. The aircraft involved in the incident was a Global Air 737-200 (XA-UHZ), which was at the time being wet-leased by state airline Cubana de Aviación, operating the flight to Holguin.
“There has been an unfortunate aviation accident. The news is not very promising, it seems that there is a high number of victims,” stated Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel.
Holguín is over 350 miles to the east of the Cuban capital, Havana, the flight’s origin.
A photo from the airport terminal shows a tall plume of black smoke rising from the sight of the crash. Additionally, photos from the crash site show rescue personnel, as well as some residents, putting out fires, as well as scrambling through the wreckage.
Although the plane was leased, Cubana de Aviación’s outdated fleet has faced mechanical issues in the past. The day before the crash on May 17, the aviation authorities of Cuba ordered that the entire Antonov AN-158 fleet operated by Cubana de Aviación be grounded. The regulators stated that the grounding is due to operational issues with the jet, including a shortage and unreliable delivery of parts to the aircraft-type. Additionally, the airline has reported problems with abnormal engine operation temperatures on the Ivchenko-Progress D-436 engine which powers the Antonov AN-158. The Cuban Civil Aviation Institute further condemned other structural flaws and a series of mechanical failures and various in-flight problems. As of April 2018, only one AN-158 was operating for the airline.
In April 2017, an Antonov AN-26 operating for Aerogaviota crashed resulting in the loss of 8 lives.
Photos and information gathered from various sources, including CNN.com, Planespotters.net, Tenemos Noticias, AirplanePictures.net, among others.