Chapecoense crash caused by 'human error' as plane took off without enough fuel to complete flight safely

Colombia's Civil Aeronautics agency has blamed a series of human errors for the crash that killed 71 people in Colombia in November

The plane crash outside the Colombian city of Medellin was caused by a series of human errors
The plane crash outside the Colombian city of Medellin was caused by a series of human errors

A series of human errors caused an airliner to run out of fuel and crash in Colombia last month, killing 71 people including most of Brazilian football team Chapecoense, aviation authorities said on Monday.

Colombia's Civil Aeronautics agency concluded in its investigation that the plan for the flight operated by Bolivia-based charter company LaMia did not meet international standards. Among the errors made were the decisions to let the plane take off without enough fuel to make the flight safely and then to not stop midway to refuel. The pilot also did not report the plane's emergency until it was too late, it said.

Neither the company nor Bolivian authorities should have allowed the plane to take off with the flight plan submitted, said Freddy Bonilla, air safety secretary for Colombia's aviation authority. He said the agency's preliminary conclusions were based on the plane's black boxes and other evidence.

Experts had earlier suggested that fuel exhaustion was a likely cause of the 28 November crash that wiped out all but a few members of the Chapocoense team, as well as club officials and journalists accompanying them to a championship playoff match in Medellin, Colombia.

The BAE 146 Avro RJ85 has a maximum range of 2,965 kilometers (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.

Investigators found that crew members of the LaMia flight were aware of the lack of fuel but waited too long to report the emergency.

Plane crash: Brazil President receives coffins of Chapecoense players

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.

And when the pilot asked for priority to land in Medellin, six minutes before crashing, the plane had already spent two minutes with a motor shut off, the investigation concluded. All the motors shut down minutes later.

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." A surviving flight attendant and a pilot flying nearby also overheard the frantic pleas from the doomed airliner.

In addition, there was no explosion upon impact, pointing to a scarcity of fuel.

Investigators in Colombia concluded that the plane did not have the fuel reserves required by international standards for such a flight. They said there was no evidence of sabotage or mechanical failure.

The British Aerospace 146 plane was not cleared for flying at 30,000 feet 

Authorities also detected an excess of baggage, but did not relate it to the accident, and, 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 already blamed the airline and its pilot for the accident.

AP

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in