Probable Final Flight Path of Sabena OO-CBG

The following information was received from Lieutenant Commander Tom Beard, USCG (retired) who has studied extensively the crash of Sabena OO-CBG.

Gander approach path 02

Gander approach path 02 is the most probable flight path taken by Sabena. They could not have taken the standard instrument procedure as shown in Gander approach path 01 and arrive at the crash site when they did. The arc of the final minutes of flight was computed from estimated true airspeeds of the DC-4 and of estimated winds creating a constantly diminishing ground speed thus a constantly reduced radius of turn. This shows up as hooked shape path over the ground. The assumed speeds would have to be fairly accurate to place the aircraft at the crash site at that precise time.

Gander Approach path 01

app #1

I added a dashed line on the “approach” indicating a probable ground path IF Sabena had attempted this approach with the winds as reported. They would have ended their procedure turn in the “cone of confusion” and an “orientation” would be required to reestablish themselves on the range. There would have been no time to carry out this procedure and end at the crash site at the time they did. This was an earlier assumption of mine until the numbers did not match, thus indicating to me that the plane flew in over the station and continued outbound just making the false reports. But this attachment shows a good reconstruction of the range approach as I determined it.

Gander Radio Range Approach

path 3

Search aircraft concentrated on the region to the south-east of the range station (south-east or  “Nan” quadrant) in their search assuming Sabena did the standard approach, which I understand was still not an official approach but one devised by airlines. However, apparently this instrument approach was common enough that it was felt most aircraft used it. The Sabena even made compulsory radio reports at the critical positions (times), but could not have been at these locations and still ended at the crash site. Nor would they have been at the published altitudes for those compulsory reporting points.

Tom Beard


Retired Lieutenant Commander Tom Beard, USCG, split a military flying career as a Navy carrier and Coast Guard rescue pilot accumulating 6,000 flight-hours in a dozen operational aircraft, including: attack, fighter, surveillance, seaplane, transport and helicopter. Beard holds a MA degree with more than 30 articles and three books published in American maritime and aviation history. One prize-winning book is The Coast Guard. Tom and wife, Carolyn spent sixteen years circumnavigating the globe in their sailboat and have cruised over 160,000 miles. 



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