Ten days after the British Aerospace 146 crashed near Medellin in Colombia, many questions are still up in the air. For the time being, Colombian investigators believe the plane, belonging to Bolivian charter airline LaMia, quite simply ran out of petrol.
The last conversation between the pilot and air traffic control, and the lack of fuel waste at the site of the accident, would seem to support this theory. Other facts speak for themselves. The aircraft was flying from Santa Cruz de la Sierra to Rionegro – a distance of 3,000 km. But the maximum range of the short haul plane is about 2,900 km.
According to the airline, the pilot was originally supposed to stop in Bogota to top up his fuel tank. But in the end he decided to carry on directly - to his final destination.
The plane eventually crashed into the side of a mountain about 15 km from the airport. Out of the 77 passengers and crew members, there were only 6 survivors.
Pilot error? A faulty fuel gauge? Ongoing analysis of the aircraft’s black boxes should bring us the answers. As we await the results, it reminds us of another air disaster in 2005, when a Tuninter ATR 72 crashed off the coast of Sicily. On that occasion, enquiries revealed that only a few days before the disaster, an ATR 42 fuel gauge had been installed on the ATR 72 aircraft. That error cost the lives of 16 victims.