Saudi Arabian – Lockheed – L1011 (HZ-AHK) flight SV163

by | Aug 19, 1980 | Aviation Accident | 15 comments

Saudi Arabian flight SV163 : it was around 1808 GMT on August 19, 1980, when Saudi Arabian Airlines, Flight 163, a Lockheed L-1011 TriStar, departed Riyadh, Saudi Arabia enroute to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

Flight 163 returned to Riyadh after an uncontrolled fire developed in the C-3 cargo compartment of the aircraft.

“Give me your attention please, be seated ladies and gentlemen, we are about to land there’s no reason to panic”

The flight landed at about 1836 and then taxied clear of the runway and came to a stop on an adjacent taxiway.

Saudi Arabian - Lockheed - L1011 (HZ-AHK) flight SV163

wreckage of Saudi Arabian L1011 (HZ-AHK) flight SV163

While parked on the taxiway, the aircraft was destroyed by the fire and the three hundred and one persons on board the flight were killed.

Saudi Arabian flight SV163 was survivable. The first door was opened about 23 minutes after all engines had been shutdown.

The Presidency of Civil Aviation determines that the probable cause of this accident was the initiation of fire in the C-3 Cargo compartment.

The source of ignition of the fire is undetermined.

Factors contributing to the final fatal results of this accident were

  • the failure of the Captain to prepare the cabin crew for immediate evacuation upon landing, and his failure in not making a maximum stop landing on the runway with immediate evacuation,
  • the failure of the Captain to properly utilize his flight crew throughout the emergency
  • the failure of C/F/R headquarters management personnel to insure that its personnel had adequate equipment and training to function as required during an emergency.


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Saudi Arabian – Lockheed – L1011 (HZ-AHK) flight SV163

Event date: 19800819
Airline / Operator:SAUDI ARABIAN
Model: L1011
Registration: HZ-AHK
msn: 1169
Location: Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

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  1. Adrian Gonsalves

    I still dread this day as my mother died in this crash I was only 6 at the time. I have tried to read and research every article available on this. Still fail to figure when the dam pilot landed the plane safely why didn’t they get off the plane I don’t blame the pilot he did a good job getting the burning plane down the question is why weren’t they given the ok from the air tower to avacuate the plane what was the reason ??? Why weren’t the stand by emergency aid not available???? Arabs ???

    • eagle eye

      First of all I’m sorry about your mother but I think you are racist to but the blame on Arabs
      I study the case and the main reason was the flight engineer which he was American that he failed to depressuriz the cabin so they couldn’t open the doors
      So all the blame you should put it on the crew which all of them were western
      If you have any clue about aviation you will know that the emergency will be sent if the commander of the air craft will ask for it because the don’t know what’s happening inside the plane
      So you have to plame your people for being dumb not the Arabs

      • All Aboard

        Moronic comment. Both the pilot and the copilot were Saudis. You are intentionally misrepresenting the facts. The Saudi pilot did NOT stop the airplane for two minutes after touch down, and then would NOT shut down the engines for three additional minutes. Over those five minutes all passengers died of smoke inhalation. The blame is 100% with the Saudi pilot.

      • Teresa

        Oh, but it’s not racist to blame Westerners as you put it?

    • hina

      sorry for your loss, my father also died in same flight I was born after 6 months of his death…. I never got any satisfactory answers until now…may you and I both find peace ameen

    • Colin McLaughlin

      First of all, I’m so sorry about your mother. I think you are being racist to point the finger of blame on Arabs. The loss of Saudia 163 was to quote the official accident report here-The initiation of a fire in the C-3 cargo compartment. The source of the ignition of the fire is undetermined. Factors contributing to the fatal results of this accident were:
      – The failure of the captain to prepare the cabin crew for immediate evacuation upon landing and his failure in not making a maximum stop landing on the runway, with immediate evacuation,
      – The failure of the captain to properly utilize his flight crew throughout the emergency,
      – The failure of C/F/R headquarters management personnel to ensure that its personnel had adequate equipment and training to function as required during an emergency.

  2. Fatimah Mahmood

    Did you know 7 people actually survived this crash.

    • Arthur

      What survivors?

  3. Tom Wil;son

    The Captain did not realize the urgency of the rapidly building cargo fire. Like any other air carrier aircraft the outflow valves should open automatically on touchdown with the landing gear squat switch. As has been mentioned it is possible that the outflow vales were melted closed by the fire. The long extended time to shut down the engines and evacuate the aircraft clearly rests on the shoulders of the Saudia Captain, who was probably in a state of shock and denial of the exigency of the situation. The Captain can evacuate the aircraft anytime he deems appropriate without any approval or consent by the tower.

    • Harold

      At that time, Saudia did not have a published emergency procedure dictating cockpit crew actions to initiate an evacuation. Evacuation procedures were never practiced during simulator training.

      • Colin McLaughlin

        I know… BUT cabin crew had the authority to conduct an emergency evacuation with or without Captain’s approval

  4. Curt McNamara

    I lived in Saudi for nine years: Oct 76-Sep 85 Jeddah and Riyadh. On the night of Aug 19, we were in Riyadh when our 16 yr old son yelled “Dad, an L1011 is landing and I can see flames through the windows. The next day, and days following, The Saudi Gazette News and rumors from the control tower indicated that the pilot of Saudi Flight SV163 had been told that a Saudi Prince was landing right behind him, that he needed to go to the end of runway and park on the taxi way until the prince was off the runway and the fire trucks could go to SV163. I met Brad Curtis (SV163 Flight Engineer), in Jeddah in 76 where he was then the pilot of U.S. Geological Survey DC-2, but did not know him. I have been to his grave in Libby, MT: Large headstone with a Lockheed L1011 TRI STAR from Saudi Airlines. I made a lot of Saudia flights past the remains of SV163ST, until the new Riyadh airport was built. I knew several U.S. Co-Pilots with many more hours than their Saudia plane captains and if anything went wrong the co-pilot was the blame.

    • Steve lkaing

      Thanks for posting. Yours is the first I have ever read that tells it as it is. I lived in Riyadh 1978-80, In “Airport Village” just off the west end of the other (east west) runway. I too was on SV163 a year earlier to Jeddah. Indeed the captain was under pressure to get the plane off the runway before evacuating, something few seem to know. While I heard it as King Khaled’s 747 waiting to depart on that runway, it does sound just as urgent that another prince was landing afterwards on that runway, so either scenario seems plausible to me. A couple of other tidbits of info have come my way over the years…. Apparently the reputation of the Captain & Co-pilot preceded them at Saudia, to the point that an unwritten rule existed: Never, ever schedule a plane with these guys as a crew together. Collectively they were notorious as Saudia’s least competent. They were to be placed on flights with other more competent individuals each, so as to avoid having an entire flight run without a competent pilot, as was the case here. As July/August is Saudia’s busiest season (adding Ramadan to that factor in 1980), somehow in haste, these two ended up working a flight together anyway as the airline is stressed to meet customer demand at that time of year. Additionally, the pilot, Cpt. Khoweter was the only Saudi citizen at that time to pilot the L-1011 thanks to affirmative action (called Saudization). The other L-1011’s were piloted by Americans. Apparently he was “old school” and didn’t take too well to new tech, though he was good at geography. He couldn’t easily use Auto pilot and ILS so he apparently was known to fly visually, using the highways & other landmarks as his flight paths. To land in Riyadh he used the water tower and Malaaz Stadium to line his plane up between Airport Rd on his left & Sitteen Street on his right to make his landing approach. Frightening! To this day, I sometimes think to myself, No wonder we always seemed to see Mecca Rd out the window when flying to Jeddah and Dammam Rd when flying to Dhahran throughout most of the flights’ duration.

  5. Bob Hutt

    My thoughts 40 years later about this tragedy often bring me to tears (as now writing this). I frequently took SV 163 home to Jeddah, and that day I was asked to stay on in Riyadh for a few more days. I changed my seat reservation and extended my hotel stay only to learn about it the next morning.

  6. Jomskie

    I lost my cousin in this tragic incident. She’s one of the flight attendants. I was 14 at that time. I also recall 10years after , my Aunt was compensated by the plane manufacturer for the plane door that malfunction.


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