Engine on 'reverse' setting could have caused Madrid plane crash

The plane that crashed at Madrid airport last week, killing 154 people, may have had one engine on a reverse setting.

Investigators examining the remains of the burnt-out aircraft discovered one of the reverse plates had broken from the left engine, sources from the investigation told El Pais.

The reverse plates cover the exhaust when activated and work as a brake. They should only be operated on the ground. If one were activated, the aircraft would lose power and slew to the side.

A pilot told El Mundo the possibility that a reverse sprang into action during take-off as, "the worst thing that could happen. Like an axe-blow to the plane". He said: "You'd have one motor pushing ahead, and the other dragging in the opposite direction." But an engineer told the same newspaper that the distortion would be relatively small, "as the MD-82 plane has both engines on the tail, close to the spine of the aircraft".

Beatriz Reyes Ojeda, 41, was the first adult survivor to leave hospital yesterday, having suffered a broken leg and bruises.

"I noticed the plane perhaps lacked speed, then a wing dipped. I clung to my seat and don't remember any more," she said. When she came round on the ground, she strapped a tourniquet round her leg and pulled out several children trapped under aircraft seats. Six-year-old Roberto Alvarez Carretero, who was treated for injuries to his arms, legs and head, was discharged on Monday.

Sixteen survivors remain in hospital. Doctors said two were very seriously ill.

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