The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has found that a National Airlines Boeing 747 freighter crashed on takeoff from Bagram Airbase, Afghanistan, because the five large military vehicles it was carrying were inadequately restrained. This led to at least one vehicle moving rearward, crippling key hydraulic systems and damaging the horizontal stabilizer components, which rendered the airplane uncontrollable. All seven crewmembers were killed in the April 29, 2013 crash.

Contributing to the accident was the Federal Aviation Administration’s inadequate oversight of National Airlines’ (NAL’s) handling of special cargo loads, such as that being carried on the accident flight. The Boeing 747-400 freighter was carrying five mine-resistant ambush-protected (MRAP) vehicles. There was no evidence found to suggest that the airplane was brought down by an explosive device or hostile acts.

Enemy fire not the cause

“The crew took on an important mission to support American forces abroad and lost their lives not to enemy fire, but to an accident,’’ said NTSB Chairman Christopher A. Hart at the outset of the Board meeting. “We cannot change what happened, but in fully investigating this accident, we hope to find ways to prevent such an accident from happening again.”

The investigation found that National Airlines’ cargo operations manual not only omitted critical information from Boeing and from the cargo handling system manufacturer about properly securing cargo, but it also contained incorrect restraining methods for special cargo loads.


The Board recommended that the FAA create a certification process for personnel responsible for the loading, restraint, and documentation of special cargo loads on transport-category airplanes. Other recommendations call on the FAA to improve its ability to inspect cargo aircraft operations, specifically those involving special cargo loads.

“Today’s recommendations to the FAA, if acted upon, will bring these important issues into sharper focus, help to standardize previously ambiguous areas of oversight and guidance, and prepare FAA inspectors to determine whether this clearer guidance is being followed,” Hart said.

To view the findings, the probable cause, and all recommendations, click on the following link: