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Published On: Thu, Dec 1st, 2016

Confirmed: Charter Plane That Crashed in Colombia Ran Out of Fuel

Christof Lehmann (nsnbc) : The flight crew of the Bolivarian British Aerospace Avro RJ85 that crashed 13 miles from the airport of Medellin, Colombia, had declared a fuel emergency before the plane crashed. The crash may have been caused because there was irresponsibly little to no safety margin for deviations from the flight plan and failure to clearly communicate between the pilots and air traffic control. 71 perished in the absolutely avoidable crash.

Courtesy El Colombiano.

Courtesy El Colombiano.

The plane crashed on November 28, in mountainous terrain, about 13nm from Medellin’s Rionegro Airport. Air traffic controllers and recordings now confirmed that the plane declared a fuel emergency while it was flying a circular waiting pattern.

An aviation expert consulting for nsnbc stated shortly after the crash that it appeared as if the plane had no fuel on board when it crashed because images of the wreckage showed no signs of fire at all.

The fateful flight was operated by charter carrier LAMIA Bolivia. The crash happened while the air crew was waiting for clearance for the final approach to the airport. Priority was given to an unscheduled arrival of a VivaColombia flight, forcing the crew of the charter flight to wait in a holding pattern.

A recording reviewed by FlightGlobal revealed that the pilot of the Avro RJ85 initially mentioned an “issue with fuel” while communicating with Medellin airport’s air traffic control (ATC). The air traffic controller responded saying that the runway at Medellin would re-open in about seven minutes and suggested that LAMIA Bolivia will be given priority to land over other flights operated by Avianca and LATAM Airlines Group.

The LAMIA Bolivia flight was assigned FL210 but declared a fuel emergency 2 minutes later, which prompted ATC to assign the aircraft an approach path while warning the crew of other aircraft below and ahead of it. However, the LAMIA Bolivia crew said they were already below the other aircraft, which were holding at FL180. Some 4-5 minutes after declaring a fuel emergency, the LAMIA Bolivia crew alerted ATC to a “total electrical and fuel failure” and repeatedly shouted: “Give me vectors”.

medellin-air-crash_colombia_nov-2016One important factor may be a failure to communicate the severity of the satiation. Another factor may be that the charter flight operator left irresponsibly little to no room for deviations from the intended flight plan. The flight distance between Santa Cruz and Medellin is just under the 1,600nm (2,960km) operational range of the Avro RJ85 with full payload.

The air traffic controller then tried to guide the pilot to the Rionegro VOR but said she could not ascertain the aircraft’s altitude. The pilot confirmed that the aircraft was at an altitude of 9,000ft and again requested for vectors. ATC then informed the flight crew that they were 8.2miles from the runway, which has an elevation of 7,000ft. After this final communication the ATC lost contact to the plane. An emergency was declared six minutes later.

Most probable reason for the fatal crash? An irresponsible charter flight operator. A flight crew that accepted a flight plan that left little to no room for deviations. A failure of communications between the flight crew and ATC that would have clearly underpinned the severity of the situation “before it was too late” and 71 people lost their lives in an easily avoidable air disaster.

CH/L – nsnbc 01.12.2016

Read our follow-up article below:

Colombia’s CAA Confirms: Crashed Lamia BAe Avro RJ85 Didn’t Have Mandatory Fuel Reserves

nsnbc international and our independent investigative journalism are only possible because of donations from readers like you. Please consider donating a modest monthly amount, equivalent to the price of one local print newspaper. Get a free subscription at the bottom-left of this page. The donate button is in the right column. W.r. Christof Lehmann, founder and editor-in-chief at nsnbc international.

About the Author

- Dr. Christof Lehmann is the founder and editor of nsnbc. He is a psychologist and former independent political consultant on conflict, conflict resolution and a wide range of other political issues. In March 2013 he established nsnbc as a daily, independent, international on-line newspaper. He can be contacted at nsnbc international at nsnbc.wordpress@gmail.com

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