LOT Polish Airlines Flight 5055

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SP-LBG, the aircraft involved in the accident, in October 1986

LOT Polish Airlines Flight 5055 was a scheduled international passenger flight from Warsaw, Poland to New York City, U.S.. In the late morning hours of 9 May 1987, the Ilyushin Il-62M operating the flight crashed in the Kabaty Woods nature reserve on the outskirts of Warsaw around 56 minutes after departure. All 183 passengers and crew on board perished in the crash, making it the deadliest accident involving an Ilyushin Il-62, and the deadliest aviation disaster in Polish history.

The accident was determined to have been caused by the disintegration of an engine shaft due to faulty bearings. This led to a catastrophic failure of the two left engines and then an onboard fire, both of which eventually destroyed all flight control systems.


  • Witnesses said the aircraft lost altitude rapidly, briefly skimmed treetops, then plowed a 500-yard furrow through the forest, breaking apart as it went. Its wings were sheared off, then it disintegrated in a huge explosion followed by a series of smaller explosions that touched off several brush fires.
  • The crew faced fire and loss of thrust in the two left-side engines, cabin decompression and, they soon realised, loss of pitch control. For the remainder of the flight they controlled pitch with the aircraft’s trim system. The flight engineer opened the valves to jettison some of the 70 tonnes of fuel the aircraft was carrying for its trans-Atlantic flight, but was disturbed to see that although the solenoid read as open, the fuel level did not fall. At nearly maximum take-off weight but with only two engines operating, the aircraft was in a gradual, but unstoppable, descent.
  • Among the crew’s terse, unemotional remarks was a brief speculation that something, possibly connected with the military area, had hit the horizontal stabiliser and engines. By this time the fire alarm had ceased and the crew presumed the fire had gone out. The engineer reported only one of the aircraft’s four generators was operational. In response, the captain switched off the radar to save power.
  • The Polish report into the crash found the shaft bearing in the engine had been installed with half the required number of roller bearings—13 instead of 26. Its failure caused the inner part of the disc to melt and the outer part to spin freely, destroying itself and becoming a rotary projectile. LOT never bought another Soviet aircraft and took delivery of its first Boeing 767 in 1990. Meanwhile, it fitted its Ilyushin 62M fleet with vibration gauges and warning lights.

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