Published On: Wed, Dec 28th, 2016

Series of Human Errors Caused Fatal Crash of LaMia BAE 146 Avro RJ85 Jet in Colombia: Investigators

nsnbc : Colombia’s Civil Aeronautics Agency wrapped up its investigation into the crash of the LaMia BAE 146 Avro RJ85 charter jet that cost the lives of 71 people in November and concluded that the crash of the airliner was caused by a series of human errors.

Courtesy El Colombiano.

Courtesy El Colombiano.

Colombia’s Civil Aeronautics Agency concluded among others that the plan for the flight operated by Bolivia-based company LaMia did not meet international standards. Among the many factors that led to the fatal crash, concluded the agency, was the decision to let the charter jet take off without a sufficient amount of fuel on board to ensure flight safety. The next factor was failure not to stop midway to add fuel. Sabotage or technical problems were ruled out by the investigators.

Freddy Bonilla, the Safety Secretary of Colombia’s Civil Aeronautics Agency also stressed that neither the LaMia charter company nor Bolivian authorities should have allowed the plane to take off with the flight plan submitted.

The BAE 146 Avro RJ85 has a maximum range was 2,965 kilometers or 1,600 nautical miles,  just under the distance between Medellin and Santa Cruz, Bolivia, where the plane had taken off at almost full capacity. The plane was in the air for about 4 hours and 20 minutes when air traffic controllers in Medellin put it into a holding pattern because another flight had reported a suspected fuel leak and was given priority.

medellin-air-crash_colombia_nov-2016Investigators concluded without a doubt that crew members of the LaMia flight were aware of the lack of fuel but only reported an emergency when it was too late. Bonilla said that during the flight the pilot and co-pilot are heard on “various occasions” talking about stopping in Leticia, a city near the borders separating Brazil, Peru and Colombia, to refuel but decided not to do so.

When the plane entered Colombian airspace it was flying into a wind, which caused more fuel to be consumed, added Bonilla. When the pilot finally asked for priority to land in Medellin, six minutes before crashing, the plane had already spent two minutes with a motor shut off. Three minutes and 45 seconds before the crash all the motors had shut down, the investigation concluded.

In a recording of a radio message from the pilot, he can be heard repeatedly requesting permission to land due to a lack of fuel and a “total electric failure.” Moreover, a surviving flight attendant and a pilot flying nearby testified that they also overheard what they described as frantic pleas from the flight crew of the LaMia jet.

LaMia Avro RJ85 registered P4-LOR at Glasgow Airport, UK. This aircraft was registered as CP-2933 in January 2015 and crashed in the LaMia Airlines Flight 2933 accident in November 2016. Courtesy Graham, CC-BY-SA-2.0

LaMia Avro RJ85 registered P4-LOR at Glasgow Airport, UK. This aircraft was registered as CP-2933 in January 2015 and crashed in the LaMia Airlines Flight 2933 accident in November 2016. Courtesy Graham, CC-BY-SA-2.0

Supporting the conclusion that the LaMia jet flew on less than fumes and effectively was no more than a glider when it crashed is the fact that there was no explosion, and not even a fire after the crash. Colombian investigators concluded that the plane did not have the fuel reserves required by international standards for such a flight and that authorities also detected an excess of baggage, but did not relate it to the accident.

Moreover, according to its plan, the flight was expected to reach 30,000 feet, an altitude the plane was not certified for. Details of the complete report by Colombia’s aviation agency will be released in April 2017. Bolivia, Brazil and the United Kingdom contributed to it.

Bolivia’s government has blamed the airline and its pilot for the incident which might surprise those who know that Bolivia’s Civil Aviation Authority DGAC immediately after the crash declared that charter flight operator LaMia had its AOC in order, that the aircraft maintenance record was correct and that the licenses of the two pilots were up-to-date.

However, the fact that the DGAC released this information almost immediately after the crash begged the question how the DGAC could have compiled and verified this information as swiftly as it did. It turned out that the DGAC’s Director of Aircraft Registries, Gustavo Vargas Villages is the son of the owner of LaMia. The conclusions are consistent with audio that had been leaked by air traffic controllers.

CH/L – nsnbc 28.12.2016

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