Date: Jult 11th, 1973
Type: Boeing 707-345C
Where: Paris; (France)
Report No.: -
Report Date: -
This is not an accident investigation report.
Varig Flight 820 departed Rio de Janeiro at 03.03h for a flight to Paris.
At 13.57h the aircraft had already descended to FL080 and contacted Orly
approach, who told the crew to maintain FL080 and head to the OLS VOR which
would take the aircraft to the downwind leg of Runway 26. At 13.58:20h the
flightcrew contacted Orly approach and reported a "problem with fire on
board". An emergency descent was requested. At 13.59 clearance was given to
descend to 3000ft for a Runway 07 landing, making a straight-in approach
possible. While the situation on board was getting worse (smoke entering
the cockpit and passengers becoming asphyxiated), a clearance to descend to
2000ft was given at 14.01:10h.
The flightcrew put on oxygen masks as smoke was making it impossible to
read the instruments.
At 14.03 the pilot decided to make an emergency landing 5km short of the
runway with gear down and flaps at 80deg. The Boeing approached with
considerable nose-up attitude, in a slight left bank. The aircraft
truncated some small trees and made a heavy landing on a field. Both
maingears collapsed and the engines were torn off in the subsequent skid.
The fuselage however, remained intact. Ten occupants (all crewmembers)
evacuated the aircraft. By the time the firemen arrived (6-7 minutes later)
the fire had burned through the roof and there was no sign of life. Of the
four uncosious occupants the firemen could evacuate, only one survived.
PROBABLE CAUSE: "A fire which appears to have started in the washbasin unit
of the aft right toilet. It was detected because smoke had entered the
adjacent left toilet. The fire may have been started by an electrical fault
or by the carlessness of a passenger.
The difficulty in locating the fire made the actions of cabin personel
ineffective. The flight crew did not have the facilities to intervene
usefully from the cockpit against the spread of the fire and the invasion
The lack of visibility in the cockpit prompted the crew to decided on a
forced landing. At the time of touch-down the fire was confined to the area
of the aft toilets. The occupants of the passenger cabin were poisoned, to
varying degrees by carbon monoxide and other combustion products."