Bin Laden family plane gave 'six alerts' before fatal crash

Three members of the al-Qaeda founder's family died in the crash last week

Ian Johnston
Friday 07 August 2015 07:36 BST
Hampshire police and firefighters at the scene of the Embraer Phenom 300 jet crash site at the British Car Auctions, Blackbushe, Hampshire
Hampshire police and firefighters at the scene of the Embraer Phenom 300 jet crash site at the British Car Auctions, Blackbushe, Hampshire (EPA)

A private plane that crashed killing three members of the Bin Laden family overtook a microlight aircraft on its final approach then landed too far down the runway, air accident investigators have said in a preliminary report.

The aircraft’s warning system sounded six “pull-up” alerts as it came into land at Blackbushe airport in Hampshire last week. However, the pilot set the £7m Phenom 300 jet down with only about a third of the runway left.

The plane, which was travelling at about 155mph, went off the end of the tarmac, became airborne briefly, then crashed into cars at an auction firm and burst into flames, the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) said in a special bulletin report. The late al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden’s stepmother Raja Bashir Hashem, 75, her daughter, Sana bin Laden, 53, another relative Zouheir Anuar Hashem, 56, and the Jordanian pilot, Mazen Salim Alqasim, 57, all died.

The coroner for North Hampshire, Andrew Bradley, said their bodies had been “incinerated”. Mr Alqasim had 11,000 hours of flying experience.

In the report, the AAIB said the jet “overtook a microlight aircraft … climbing slightly to pass ahead of and above that aircraft”. It was then advised by the plane’s T-Cas collision avoidance system to descend and given other instructions to help avoid another plane just above it.

“Following this climb, HZ-IBN [the plane] then descended at up to 3,000ft per minute towards the threshold of runway 25,” the report said. “The aircraft’s Taws [terrain awareness and warning system] generated six ‘pull-up’ warnings on final approach.

“Tyre marks made by the aircraft at touchdown indicated that it landed approximately 710m beyond the runway 25 threshold. Runway 25 has a declared landing distance available (LDA) of 1,059m. Therefore the aircraft touched down approximately 349m before the end of the declared LDA, 438m before the end of the paved runway surface.”

Osama bin Laden
Osama bin Laden (Getty)

The aircraft’s manufacturer estimated the plane would have needed at least 616 metres of runway to land safely.

“The aircraft departed the paved surface at the end of runway 25… then collided with a one-metre-high earth bank, causing the lower section of the nose landing gear and the nose gear doors to detach,” the report continued.

“The aircraft became airborne again briefly, before colliding with cars parked at an adjacent business and coming to rest approximately 70 metres beyond the earth bank.” The plane wing came off during the crash and “an intense fire developed, consuming the majority of the aircraft,” the report said, adding that the “four occupants were fatally injured”.

At the time, Andrew Thomas, who was paying for a car, told BBC Surrey that the plane “nosedived” and “exploded on impact”. Barry Wright, who was also at the auctioneers, said the plane “went up in a ball of flames”. Following the crash, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the UK, Prince Mohammed bin Nawaf bin Abdel-Aziz, issued a statement offering his condolences to the Bin Laden family.

They are well known in Saudi Arabia because of their large business empire. They severed all ties with Osama bin Laden, who was killed by US forces in Pakistan in 2011, after Saudi Arabia revoked his citizenship in 1994.

The inquest into the occupants’ deaths was opened and adjourned and a full hearing is unlikely to take place for at least nine months while the AAIB completes its investigation. The plane, which was flying in from Milan, was said to be a regular visitor to Blackbushe.

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