Maputo — Mozambique Airlines (LAM) has expressed its “deep concern and shock” at the findings of the Commission of Inquiry investigating the crash, on 29 November, of a LAM Embraer-190 aircraft in northern Namibia.
The plane, on a scheduled flight from Maputo to Luanda, crashed in the Bwabwata National Park, killing all 33 people on board.
The preliminary report into the disaster showed that it was caused deliberately by the pilot, Herminio dos Santos Fernandes. While the co-pilot was in the bathroom, and the pilot was alone in the cockpit, the controls were manually altered, putting the plane into a steep descent.
The report said that the altitude selector was manually altered three times, bringing the plane's altitude down from 38,000 feet to 592 feet. This happens to be below ground level at Bwambata. The velocity selector was operated manually several times, to bring the speed up to the Embraer's VMO (Maximum Operating Velocity).
Such operations, the report said, required detailed knowledge of the plane's controls, and showed a clear intention to crash the aircraft.
A LAM press release issued on Sunday night said the company “will request the detailed report which shows and proves the facts leading to the preliminary conclusions, and it will continue to cooperate fully with the investigating authorities”.
“In this difficult moment, our thoughts and prayers are with the families and loved ones of those who were on board the aircraft”, the release concludes.
The preliminary report has serious implications for LAM's insurance. Insurance experts interviewed by the independent television station STV said that aircraft insurance does not cover premeditated acts of violence, whether caused by terrorist groups, or by the pilot.
If the findings of the preliminary report are confirmed, proving that the pilot chose to destroy the plane, and no mechanical malfunction was involved, then the insurance companies are freed of their obligation to pay compensation to the families, and to pay LAM for the lost plane.
That would put the entire compensation burden on the shoulders of LAM.