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October 16, 2008

Spanair mechanics to be questioned under criminal suspicion over Flight 5022 crash

Spanair mechanics to be questioned under criminal suspicion over Flight 5022 crash

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Thursday, October 16, 2008

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Three Spanair mechanics—including the head of maintenance for the airline in the area—are to be questioned under suspicion of manslaughter in connection to the Spanair Flight 5022 disaster. The other two workers checked the plane, a MD-82, before the failed takeoff at Madrid that killed 154 and left only eighteen survivors.

Map showing crash location.

The aircraft, destined for the Canary Islands, failed to maintain altitude after takeoff from Barajas Airport.

A preliminary report concluded that the wing flaps were not correctly set for takeoff, and an alarm that should have sounded to alert the flight crew to this problem failed. No reasons have been determined for these occurrences.

A judge has now summoned the head of Spanair maintenance at Barajas and the two mechanics who checked the aircraft. They were summoned by Juan Javier Perez of Madrid’s Superior Court, who heads the judicial enquiry into the accident.

Aircraft manufacturer McDonnell Douglas—which has since merged with Boeing—has suggested that operators should check the wing flaps before every flight. However, Spanair only checked them every morning and after each change in flight crew. The recommendation came after the 1987 crash of Northwest Flight 255.

So far, no one has been charged with a crime.



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October 11, 2008

Preliminary report released on Spanair disaster that killed 154

Preliminary report released on Spanair disaster that killed 154

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Saturday, October 11, 2008

A preliminary report has been released into the disastrous crash of Spanair Flight 5022 in Madrid, Spain on August 20, which killed 154. The report confirms an earlier leaked finding that the wing flaps failed and no warning sounded to alert the pilots.

The MD-82 was headed from Barajas airport to the Canary Islands. Video footage from airport security cameras shows the airliner travelling across an unusually long distance of runway before take-off. It failed to maintain altitude and quickly dropped back down at the runway’s end, before bursting into a fireball. Just eighteen people survived the accident.

The report confirms that the aircraft failed to get beyond forty feet off the ground before entering a stall and crashing. The tail of the jet struck the ground first, and the Spanish Civil Aviation Accident Investigation Commission (CIAIAC)’s report also notes that the aircraft was carrying 10,130 litres (2,673 gallons) of fuel.

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The wing flaps were “fully retracted” at “0 degrees” according to the 12-page report, which also notes that the cockpit voice recorder indicates a complete failure of the take-off warning system (TOWS) – which is supposed to alert pilots attempting to take off in a plane that is not properly configured – to sound prior to the failed ascent. Spanair checks the TOWS each day and after every change in flight crew, but neither of these occurred between the accident flight and the flight before.

It is not known when the CIAIAC’s final report will be ready, but estimates vary from a few months to two years. The latest report notes “The investigation continues. It will be necessary to carry out tests and an exhaustive examination of the recovered parts of the plane.” A separate judicial investigation also continues.

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September 17, 2008

Controversy after leak of preliminary report into Spanair disaster

Controversy after leak of preliminary report into Spanair disaster

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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The jet before it crashed

Spain’s Ministry for Development has leaked a preliminary report into the crash of Spanair Flight 5022. The McDonnel-Douglas MD-82 that was lost at Madrid‘s Barajas Airport in Spanair’s first and only fatal accident resulted in the deaths of 154. Controversy has come as a result of both the documents’ contents and the fact that it was leaked at all.

According to the report, the airliner was defective for as yet undetermined reasons. The wing flaps failed to move into the required configuration for takeoff, and the alarm system that would normally alert pilots failed to activate, leaving the pilots unaware of the impending crash. The report goes on to note that after a similar accident befell Northwest Airlines Flight 255 in the United States in 1987, also with 154 dead, manufacturer McDonnel-Douglas (since merged with Boeing) told operators of MD-82s that they recommended pilots verified the alarm system was operational before every takeoff.

Spanair, however, did not follow this advice and instead trained pilots to check the system before the first takeoff each day and after each change in flight crew. The plane had been taken to Madrid from Barcelona earlier that day with the same flight crew, and therefore the pilots were not expected to check the alarm.

File:Columnas de humo del accidente aéreo de Madrid-Barajas (2008).jpg

Smoke rises after the crash
(Image missing from commons: image; log)

Spanair’s director of operations, Javier Muela, has responded by denial that the primary cause of the crash was the alarm’s failure, as was implied by the report. He did confirm that the airline was not following the recommendation from the airframer, but in his defense said that “Spanair did not exist” at the time – “it was made in 87, Spanair was founded in 88,” he said. He also said the airline’s independent experts did not believe the reports claims about the incorrect flap position was accurate.

Typically, airliners come with documents detailing operating recommendations among other details, but newspapers have not confirmed that Spanair did in fact receive this information with any of its MD-82s.

Regardless of the report’s accuracy, further controversy has arisen over its status, with a pilots’ union enraged over the fact that it was ever made public. The Pilots College, COPAC, expressed an intention to bring legal action against the Ministry for Development. The union say the ministry broke protocols on both confidentiality and law.

Meanwhile, the investigation continues. It remains unclear why the systems on the aircraft failed, if they indeed did, although Spanish paper El Pais speculates it may be linked to a faulty temperature gauge on one of the engines, which caused the first attempted takeoff to be aborted and delayed the flight an hour. Javier Pérez, the judge in charge of the investigation, will examine the contents of the aircraft’s flight recorders tomorrow. It is also reported that he is unlikely to call any witnesses to the disaster.



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August 20, 2008

Over one hundred die in Madrid plane crash

Over one hundred die in Madrid plane crash

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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

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File:Columnas de humo del accidente aéreo de Madrid-Barajas (2008).jpg

Smoke from the fire caused by the crash
Image: 20 Minutos.
(Image missing from commons: image; log)

Location of the crash
Image: OpenStreetMap.

A passenger plane leaving from Madrid – Barajas Airport has crashed during take-off. 153 fatalities and 19 injuries have been reported amongst those who were on the aircraft. Flight JK5022, operated by Spanair, was destined for Gran Canaria in the Canary Islands, when it skidded off the end of the runway in good weather at 14:45 local time. An engine of the aircraft is reported to have caught fire during the attempted takeoff.

A spokesman for S.A.M.U.R. stated that there were only 26 survivors. The plane at the time was carrying 173 people. 7 survivors later died en route to hospital.

The cause is unknown, but reports indicate that the left engine of the MD-82 was on fire during take-off. The United States agency National Transportation Safety Board said it was sending a team to help with the investigation and reported that “the aircraft broke apart and a post-crash fire ensued.”

“Helicopters are continually heading to the scene, dropping lots of water… The smoke has really died down now, things seem to be more under control,” said Stephanie McGovern from the BBC, commenting on the incident. Manuel Moleno, who witnessed the crash, said that “I’ve seen around 50 ambulances. They’re still coming and going, so there may still be more casualties.”

“SAS is doing everything possible to help passengers and next-of-kin and to assist Spanish authorities at this difficult time,” read a statement from SAS Group, the Stockholm-based company that owns Spanair. “SAS will provide further information as soon as it becomes available.”

“Boeing sends its deep condolences to the families and friends of those lost in the crash of Spanair flight 5022, and its wishes for the quick recovery of the injured,” said manufacturer Boeing which merged with McDonnell Douglas in 1997. “We stand ready to provide technical assistance.”



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