Jet speedometer blamed for crash

PHIL DAVISON

Latin America Correspondent

A speedometer which told the pilots they were flying faster than they really were caused last month's crash of an aircraft full of German tourists off the Dominican Republic, it emerged yesterday.

Initial reports from the United States National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), released by Dominican Republic officials, suggested the velocity indicator on the Turkish-owned Birgenair Boeing 757 had been reading 335 knots (about 370 mph) as the jet reached 7,000 feet shortly after take-off from the resort of Puerto Plata on 6 February.

In fact, it was flying at a much lower speed, the engines stalled and the aircraft went into a dive, plunging into the Atlantic Ocean and killing all 189 people on board.

An article in yesterday's Washington Post said there were indications the Turkish flight crew had known before take-off that there were problems with its velocity instruments but decided to go ahead with the flight, returning German tourists to Berlin and Frankfurt. There was no immediate comment from the airline.

The 757, leased for the flight by Birgenair to its local affiliate Alas Nacionales, had been idle at Puerto Plata for at least two weeks, raising concerns at the time that its maintenance may not have been up to scratch. It was pressed into service at the last minute to replace a Boeing 767 which Alas Nacionales was scheduled to use. Some officials at the time said the 767 had had problems with its hydraulics. Others said the airline had opted for the smaller 757 because the flight was considerably underbooked.

There was no immediate response from the Boeing company in Seattle, Washington, which lost its first 757 on 20 December when an American Airlines flight from Miami hit a mountain in Cali, Colombia, killing all but four of the 164 on board. Pilot error or a misunderstanding with the Cali control tower have been provisionally blamed for that crash.

General Hector Roman Torres, the Dominican Republic's head of civil aviation, told the Associated Press that the NTSB had reached its conclusion after studying the flight recorders recovered from the seabed last week by a US Navy guided robot. "An alarm went off indicating that the aeroplane was losing a lot of velocity, and 84 seconds later the aeroplane hit the water," he said.

The US banned all Dominican Republic airlines from landing in the US three years ago, saying its civil aviation authority was not up to international standards. Before the crash occurred, the Dominicans had hoped to overturn the ban. But Germany, too, said this week it wanted a European Union "black list" of countries with low air-safety standards following the Dominican crash, vowing to go it alone if necessary.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?