22 December 2013

Mozambique: Pilot to Blame for Mozambican Plane Crash - Investigation

Photo: Embraer
A Mozambique Airlines aircraft of the type that crashed (file photo).

Maputo — The preliminary investigation into the Mozambican plane crash on Nov. 29 indicates that the disaster was caused by the pilot deliberately, the country's civil aviation authority said Saturday.

"The investigation commission concluded that all it observed in the records shows that the descent was all with automatic pilot activating. This is an indicator of clear intention," Joao Abreu, chairperson of the Institute of Civil Aviation of Mozambique said at press conference in Maputo .

According to the report, investigations into the plane's black box at the National Transport Safety Board in the United States found that the plane operated normally with no mechanical malfunctions at 38,000 feet and had good communication with the Gabarone control center in Botswana, but suddenly it started to descend, then vanished from radar screen and lost all communication with the control center just before it crashed.

Abreu said the copilot went to the bathroom a few minutes before the crash, leaving the pilot, Herminio dos Santos Fernandes, alone in the cockpit.

It was then the altitude selector was manually altered three times, bringing the plane's altitude down from 38,000 feet to 592 feet.

The throttle control was set to idling, but the velocity selector was operated manually several times, bringing the speed up to the plane's VMO (Maximum Operating Velocity).

"These actions set off low and high intensity alarm signals, and there were repeatedly hits on the cockpit door, which can be heard on the recording, presumably indicating the copilot was trying to enter the cockpit but found the door locked against him, " said Abreu.

Abreu said all these operations required detailed knowledge of the plane's controls, and showed a clear intention to crash the aircraft.

The reason for the pilot's action is yet unknown and the investigation is kept proceeding, added Abreu.

The Mozambique Airlines' flight TM470 was scheduled from Maputo to Luanda, the Angola capital, and crashed during flight in northern Namibia, killing all 33 passengers including one Chinese on board.

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