On this day in 1991, a Canadian-chartered DC-8 plane, carrying Muslim pilgrims crashed at Jeddah, Saudi Arabia international airport, killed all two hundred and sixty one (261) people on board.
The aircraft involved in the accident was a 1968-built Douglas DC-8-61, registration C-GMXQ, owned by the Canadian company Nolisair, and usually operated by Nationair; at the time of the accident, it was being wet-leased to Nigeria Airways, which in turn sub-leased it to another company to transport Nigerian pilgrims to and from Mecca.
The aircraft departed King Abdulaziz International Airport bound for Sadiq Abubakar III International Airport in Sokoto, but problems were reported shortly after takeoff.
Prior to departure, the lead mechanic had noticed that the “#2 and #4 tyre pressures were below the minimum for flight dispatch” and attempted to inflate them, but no nitrogen gas was readily available, and the project manager, unwilling to accept a delay, disregarded the problem and readied the aircraft for dispatch.
The crew attempted to return to the airport for an emergency landing, but the aircraft caught fire, experienced an inflight break-up, and crashed 2,875 metres (9,432 ft) short of runway 34L. When the aircraft was about 18 kilometres (11 mi) from the airport and at an altitude of 671 metres (2,201 ft), a number of bodies fell from it, indicating that the fire by that time had consumed, at least partially, the cabin floor. All 261 occupants on board—including 247 passengers—perished in the accident. As of July 2014, the accident remains the deadliest crash involving a Douglas DC-8, as well as the second deadliest crash taking place on Saudi Arabian soil, after Saudia Flight 163