1950 Air France multiple Douglas DC-4 accidents were the crash of two Air France Douglas DC-4 within a few miles of each other, one on 12 June and the other two days later on 14 June. The two aircraft were operating the same route from Saigon to Paris both had stopped at Karachi Airport and crashed on approach to Bahrain. A total of 86 passengers and crew were killed, 46 on 12 June and 40 on 14 June.
The aircraft was on a scheduled flight from Saigon to Paris and had departed at 16:05 from a stopover at Karachi for another stopover at Bahrain. At 20:42 it called Bahrain approach reporting at 6500 feet and asking for clearance to descend. It was given permission to descend to 2000 feet. The aircraft overflew the airfield at about 1000 feet and at 21:13 reported as being on the down wind leg of the approach, the tower passed the wind speed and direction. At 21:15 the aircraft reported "finals" and the tower gave permission to land on Runway 29. The aircraft hit the water and crashed. After an eight-hour search the aircraft was found in 12 feet of water 3.3 miles from the end of the runway, 46 of the 52 occupants had been killed. Three survivors were found soon after the accident by a ship and three others were rescued by helicopter after eight hours in the water. All on board were French other than one stateless person. The French writer François-Jean Armorin (French) was on board. This crash was the deadliest since the Llandow air disaster earlier that year, which killed 80.
The aircraft was on a scheduled flight from Saigon to Paris and had departed at 16:43 from a stopover at Karachi for another stopover at Bahrain. At 21:41 it called Bahrein to report as being overhead. At 21:52 the aircraft reported Procedure Turn and the tower gave permission to land. The aircraft hit the water and crashed within a mile of the previous accident. After a search a ship reported picking up survivors at 02:00, 40 of the 53 occupants had been killed. Most of the passengers and the crew were French with two Vietnamese and two Chinese, at least 13 of the passengers were children.
The "New York Times" reported the incident as so:
"PARIS, Thursday, 15 June—A second four-engine Air France airliner with forty-five passengers aboard crashed into the Persian Gulf last night near Bahrein Island, at approximately the same place where forty-six persons were lost two days before in another Air France crash. First reports said eleven persons so far had been saved in the second crash. Both planes were en route from Saigon, Indo-China, to Paris. Last night's crash was the third French air disaster in three days, sixteen men being lost in a Madagascar flight." ("New York Times," 15 June 1950)
A special commission of inquiry arrived on 15 June in Bahrain to investigate the first accident, it was then directed to investigate both accidents. The commission banned all French aircraft from landing at night while the cause was being investigated. The manager of Air France in the Far East said there were similarities between the two accidents, both having taken place at the same time in bad atmospheric conditions.
The probable cause was that pilot-in-command did not keep an accurate check of his altitude and rate of descent during the timed approach procedure, thus allowing his aircraft to fly into the surface of the sea. The possibility that the pilot-in-command was feeling the effects of fatigue cannot be ruled out.
The probable cause was a failure of the pilot-in-command to adapt the timed approach procedure to the prevailing conditions and having descended to 300 ft, the pilot-in-command did not take the necessary steps to maintain this altitude until such time as the runway lights became visible.
The investigation into both accidents recommended that consideration be given to equipping Bahrain Airport with radio landing aids and with suitable runway approach lights.
The aircraft were both Douglas DC-4 airliners powered by four Pratt & Whitney R-2000 Twin Wasp radial piston engines and able to carry up to 86 passengers.Registration F-BBDE and named Ciel de Picardie it was a Douglas DC-4-1009 which first flew on 3 June 1946 and had flown 8,128 hours by the time of the accident.
Registered F-BBDM and named Ciel de Gascogne it was a Douglas DC-4-1000 which first flew on 27 June 1946 and had flown 8,705 hours by the time of the accident.
In 1994 a hydrographic survey of the area to the east of Muhurraq Island off the end of the runway located a wing of an aircraft subsequently identified as that of DC-4 F-BDDM. A seabed inspection of the area located two of the Pratt & Whitney radial engines and three bent propellers together with assorted aircraft debris consisting of part of the tailplane, electric wiring, small passenger items and broken bottles. The Christian Cemetery Committee responsible for the maintenance of the Old Christian Cemetery in which the 86 casualties had originally been interred approved the idea of a permanent memorial. A joint venture between the Bahrain-based diving company TECHDIVE and Royal Navy divers recovered the least damaged propeller and after sandblasting and painting was mounted in the cemetery. In December the memorial was formerly dedicated by the French Ambassador, various church dignitaries and those involved in its recovery.
This started a detailed investigation into the causes of the two crashes and eventually having ruled out pilot error, sabotage and mechanical failure, the clue appeared in the weather condition reports from Air Traffic held in the UK. Both crashes were attributed to extreme weather conditions on the approach to the airport on the two nights in question. Today they are referred to as microbursts. The results were published in the local newspaper and were concurred by the Gulf Air Safety Officer. These were also passed to the French Embassy who relayed the findings to France and it is hoped that the pilots were exonerated of two crashes that were due to conditions unknown at the time and well beyond their capabilities.