More Sickening Details Emerge About Lamia’s Crash In Colombia

Monday night an Avro RJ85 traveling from Santa Cruz, Bolivia, to Medellin, Colombia, crashed shortly before landing. The flight was being operated by Lamia, a charter airline with a single plane. 71 of the 77 people on the flight died. The plane was carrying a Brazilian soccer team, which was heading to the South American Cup Finals.

Yesterday I shared further details that were emerging about the accident, which showed an incredible amount of negligence on the part of the captain. He knowingly operated a flight that was beyond the range of the plane. Rather than diverting or declaring an emergency when the plane still had a chance, he decided to cut corners. What was his motive? Perhaps that he was a co-owner of the airline, so presumably he was scared of possibly losing contracts with sports teams or being fined by authorities if they discovered what he had done.

Well, if the details so far haven’t been horrifying enough, the negligence gets even worse.

The supposed flight plan filed by the captain has been leaked, and it shows an anticipated flight time of 4hr22min. Further down on the same flight plan it shows “endurance,” which is how far the plane can fly. The number? Also 4hr22min.

The fact that this was signed off on is mind-blowing and infuriating, and the captain isn’t the only one who should be held accountable here. Accidents don’t get more preventable than this. The plane ended up being in the air for 4hr37min before it ran out of fuel.

Furthermore, apparently the initial flight plan that Lamia filed was for a flight originating in Cobija, Bolivia, which is over 500 miles closer to Medellin than Santa Cruz. That would have easily been within the plane’s range.

lamia-flight-plan

You have to wonder how the co-pilot was okay with this. I suspect part of it might be the overall dynamic of having the captain also be a co-owner of the company, which probably made him feel like he didn’t have much say. While airlines nowadays try to train pilots to speak up when they see something that concerns them, the dynamic here probably didn’t allow that. Interestingly there was another pilot in the cockpit who was on her first official flight, though she wasn’t at the controls.

All plane crashes make me sick to my stomach, but this one is among the most infuriating. Sometimes planes crash due to human error and sometimes they crash due to technical failures, but to see someone cut corners to save some cash and risk 77 lives in the process is sickening. The fact that this was allowed to happen and that the flight plan was signed off on makes it even worse.

It’s tough enough to lose family and friends, but losing them to something so preventable must hurt even more.

Comments

  1. Man…sometimes reading about plane crashes like this one really does have me angered and in tears! Something like this just shouldnt have happened…

  2. Other sources say there was another, experienced co pilot actually at the controls and she was observing.

    Let’s let the investigators and journalists sort this one out.

  3. What about the ATC which when the pilot wanted a Priority (Spanish for emergency) landing asked him to circle and allowed a Avianca Global flight to land. ATCs have a way of deferring to commerical airliners over chartered flights. Why is noone focussing on that. Plus the Flight plan was filed with an alternate refuelling point at Bogota so when the Captain reached Bogota he would have landed if he did not have enough fuel to make Medellin. He did have the fuel but he did not plan for being kept circling 15 minutes over Medellin. Yes US flight carry 45 minutes more fuel but sometimes weather conditions can lead to unusual draw down of fuel. The ATC should be investigated as to why they didn’t give immediate clearance. Someone may have thought it funny to keep the opposing team circling for a while

  4. @ Prabuddha — While I agree the ATC issue should be studied further, are you seriously suggesting that the captain had enough fuel and that he would have diverted if he hadn’t? Look at the flight plan. There’s simply no way to justify the captain not having any fuel reserves. That’s the core of the issue here, in my opinion.

  5. Somewhat related

    https://www.reddit.com/r/soccer/comments/5g7aq1/the_chapecoense_tragedy_is_now_turning_into_a/

    “The death of the players extremely sad. But the revelations that have come out over the past 2 days have been even more scary.

    LaMia; a Venezuelan based company that flew out of Bolivia, has been implicated in a major scandal that is growing by the minute and involves the flights of several major football teams.

    Venezuelan based LaMia; not only regularly chartered long haul international flights for Chapecoense but also clubs like Atletico Nacional, Santa Fe, and national teams like the Argentine national team, the Bolivian national Team, and the Peruvian national team (that we know of so far).

    Several times they flew flights that were just within the flight range of the plane. Several of the flights. In one case when it transported the Argentine National Team from Argentina to Brazil it had only 15 minutes of extra fuel on board. In another case it made an unannounced stop at the Brasilia airport while transporting the Bolivian National Team to refuel.

    The fact that this low-cost airline was repeatedly used by very well-off teams; and cut corners while doing so is fueling theories that the airline was being used by high up officials in the CONMEBOL, the AFA, and several other organizations to embezzle funds. Chapecoense was told by the CONMEBOL for example that they couldn’t take a commercial flight to the Sudamericana Final.

    This fear is furthered by the connection of the airline to Venezuela; a key trading partner of Argentina and a figure in several corruption scandals that rocked the Kirchner administration.

    It is theorized that the airline did not stop to refuel because it used subsidized fuel from Venezuela and the cost to refuel would cut heavily into the airlines margins.”

  6. @Prabuddha – Priority is not Spanish for emergency. The mistake ( apart from all others ) is the pilot didn’t declare an emergency while he still had time to do it ( probably by the $ questions raised above ).

  7. I fly small planes and I would shit a brick if I saw my fuel go under 30%. No clue how anyone could do this .

  8. I am sick and sad and frustrated and horrified.
    WTF????
    All those families…
    it’s beyond contempt and 100% avoidable!
    Please GOD don’t let ass holes we have to trust do anything like this again!

  9. @Patrickstarr

    “In another case it made an unannounced stop at the Brasilia airport while transporting the Bolivian National Team to refuel.”

    Sadly, if they had done the same on this flight, the tragedy would’ve been averted. You’re right that it reflects a pattern of negligent planning, though.

  10. Whoever filed that flight plan deserves to be in jail for negligence.

    Forget legality, common sense dictates that there are very few circumstances that can justify flying with that tiny of a fuel margin – flying with passengers into an airport with an alternate barely 100nm away is not one of them.

    This is the second commercial flight in a year that has crashed due to fuel exhaustion (Tristar Air of Egypt lost an Airbus 300 near Mogadishu last October under similar criminally negligent circumstances). Sadly, there seem to be too many cowboys who have gotten complacent and consequently willing to bend and break the rules.

  11. Interesting comments and agree with Lucky, this is an abominable crime.
    Just wanted to add a few points based on what I have read in S.American press about this disaster.

    – agree that the Conmebol RICO link needs serious investigation. How does a tiny shoe-string airline get such prestigious contracts ( eg. Argentine team) so soon after it receives it is granted an operator license in Bolivia, enough to describe themselves as a sports specialist?
    – The flight plan scanned above may not be the final flight plan. The officer who made the objections, Celia, did not accept it, that’s why she has not stamped that portion, only stamping the “Additional Info” column.
    There are confusing accounts out there, but it appears that they sent in a second FP with alternates with Cobija on – still presumably with no intent in using it to re-fuel, just as a sop. Apparently FP no. 2 was then accepted by another staff member.( In any event, media has since uncovered more illegal trips by LaMia whereby they flew this route ” on fumes”, in different weather and with a lighter payload.Would be very interested to see those flight plans.) Anyway the likes of Celia will perhaps end up being scapegoated because those at the top are too powerful to fall.
    – owner/manager Vargas has a son who was conveniently placed as Director of Aviation Registry. He has since been suspended BUT LaMia should never have even passed the licensing stage as their outfit would not satisfy the min criteria. ( It had applied for licence in Venezuela multiple times and had failed.) Vargas Jnr dealt with registers of all aviation accidents and incidents.
    – the only other two planes LaMia had leased ( from LaMia Venezuela) are still in the hangar and not fit to fly. S.American press has revealed that LaMia planes have been maintained by the Bolivian Air Force which is very unusual. (Of course all 3 of the owner/managers ( Vargas, Quiroga & Rocha) are ex-BAF and ex army so they certainly have connections. )
    – none of the LaMia employees were registered as they should have been per basic Bolivian employment regs.
    – President Morales was also reminded, by press & opposition this week ,that he DID in fact know LaMia very well and FBook photos pictured him on two occasions with LaMia staff. So did Vargas Snr’s connections at the highest levels also help with LaMia getting their business?
    – A Brazilian air expert calculated a stop for re-fuel incl all charges, eg at Bogota would have cost $r10k or under US $ 3000! ( What measly price the life of each lost? c. $40 unless you total the possible, clandestine funds skimmed off the top elsewhere?) LaMia always quoted the cheapest price for their charters , have seen 100-130k quoted as the price of the contract from Medellin to V Viru yet with the added cost of the flight from SPaolo to meet with the LaMia plane, it’s likely the whole team could have flown with a scheduled commercial carrier for less ….and lived.
    – A Bolivian hanger manager made the comment in the press that LaMia always used minimum fuel in order to keep costs as low as possible and those other flights on the same craft should bear that out. ( Available online.)
    – The co-pilots ( not model/private pilot Sisy Arias, who was only observing) are also ex Bolivian military. One of them was the individual who compiled the flight plan and argued with Celia. According to media at least one of them left in military service in “unhappy” circumstances. All those co pilots would have been fully aware of the fuel issues.

    I’ll leave it there, there’s a lot more interesting info out there, whether it will actually come to light is another matter, but it’s a definitely a case of “follow the money.”

  12. Interesting comments and agree, the more you find the worse it gets.
    so just wanted to add a few points based on what I have read in S.American press.

    – agree that the possible Conmebol RICO link needs serious investigation. How does a tiny shoe-string airline get such prestigious contracts ( eg. Argentine team) so quickly after it receives it’s operator license in Bolivia? (Enough to describe themselves as a sports specialist and transport multi-million $ players, especially when they don’t have sufficient insurance to fly?)
    – The flight plan scanned above may not be the final flight plan. (The officer who made the objections, Celia, did not accept it, that’s why she has not stamped that portion, only stamping the “Additional Info” column. )
    There are confusing accounts out there, but it appears that LaMia may have sent in a second FP with alternates listed – still presumably with no intent re-fuelling, just as a sop. Apparently FP no. 2 was then accepted by another staff member.( In any event, media has since uncovered more illegal trips by LaMia whereby they flew this route ” on fumes”, maybe in different weather/ lighter payload/no delay on landing.( Would be very interested to see those flight plans.) Anyway will the likes of Celia end up being scapegoated because those at the top are too powerful to fall.
    – owner/manager Vargas has a son who was conveniently placed as Director of Aviation Registry. He has since been suspended BUT LaMia should never have even passed the licensing stage as their outfit would not satisfy the min criteria. ( It had applied for licence in Venezuela multiple times and had failed.) Vargas Jnr dealt with registers of all aviation accidents and incidents.
    – the only other two planes LaMia had leased ( from LaMia Venezuela) are still in the hangar and not fit to fly. S.American press has revealed that LaMia planes have been maintained by the Bolivian Air Force which is most unusual. (Of course all 3 of the owner/managers ( Vargas, Quiroga & Rocha) are ex-BAF and ex army so they certainly have connections. )
    – none of the LaMia employees were registered as they should have been, as per basic Bolivian employment regs.
    – President Morales was also reminded, by press & opposition this week ,that he DID in fact know LaMia very well and FBook photos pictured him on two occasions with LaMia staff. So did Vargas Snr’s connections at the highest levels ( eg.Morales) also help with LaMia getting their business?
    – A Brazilian air expert calculated a stop for re-fuel incl all charges, eg at Bogota would have cost $r10k or under US $ 3000! ( What measly price the life of each lost? c. $40?) Apparently LaMia always quoted the cheapest price for their charters- have seen 100-130k variously quoted as the price of the contract from Medellin to V Viru -yet with the added cost of the flight from SPaolo to meet with the LaMia plane, it’s likely the whole team could have flown with a scheduled commercial carrier for less ….and lived.
    – A Bolivian hanger manager made the comment in the press that LaMia always used minimum fuel in order to keep costs as low as possible and those other flight plans using this plane should bear that out. ( Available online.)
    – The co-pilots ( not model/private pilot Sisy Arias, who was not piloting, this was her first trip with LaMia) are also ex BAF & military. One of them was the individual who compiled the flight plan and argued with Celia. According to media one of them left military service in “unhappy” circumstances. Anyway all the co pilots would have been fully aware of the fuel issues before & during.
    – It cannot help that Bolivia has been described as the most corrupt nation on the Continent nor that it’s said to be THE hub for drug smuggling. Throw in a link with Conmebol………
    I’ll leave it there, there’s a lot more interesting info out there, whether it will actually come to light is another matter, but it’s a definitely a case of “follow the money.”

  13. Gross negligence by the pilot and incompetence and mismanagement from ATC are not a good mix. Both need to be thoroughly investigated.Obviously the captain cannot fly anymore and the airline has been suspended but the controller in charge should also be suspended until an investigation has been completed.

  14. The controller has already said she had an emergency fuel leak ahead of the doomed aircraft. Im an air traffic controller in Dallas and it amazes me that they dont have radar at that airport. She told him there would be a 7 minute delay because of the emergency fuel leak ahead. Using minutes is a non radar rule which inturn slows down all your traffic.

  15. The ATC aspect is a red herring.

    There is a word that everyone is trained to use when there is a flight safety risk, it’s Mayday. The pilot didn’t use it, and hence his priority request was denied based on another aircraft having already asked for one. Had he declared mayday, he would have had immediate access to the runway, a fact demonstrated minutes later when he declared “complete electrical failure”, and ATC instantly cancelled all approach clearances and gave him the runway.

    ATC can’t work with what it doesn’t know. If you have an emergency and don’t tell them, then that’s on you.

  16. The idea that being a partial owner in the business as a reason for the pilot cutting corners is irrelevant. It comes down to people with poor judgement having a pilot’s license.

    There was a pilot in my family. He learned to fly during WWII and had thousands of hours of logged flight time. Once he flew without a flight plan from Montgomery Field to Hawthorne at wave-level because he took off late and the weather was closing in. The only time got in trouble with the FAA was when he landed at night at Van Nuys airport. No big deal except he had been clear to land at Burbank airport. His license was suspended for six months over that one. Also, that was the only time his license was ever suspended. He was an example of a certain group of pilots: highly skilled with the airplane and flying but prone to exercise extremely poor judgement. In the words, a cocky pilot. They are not rare.

  17. Here’s my background -pilot for 50 yrs, ATC for 27. My thoughts are:
    – the pilot was completely incompetent. He should have allowed proper reserves for weather, holding, going to an alternate and a regular reserve on top of that. He also should have declared the mayday clearly and in a timely manner;
    – I think the stop anywhere would have cost landing, parking fees, plus taxi, take-off and extra fuel to climb to altitude. My guess is a refuelling stop might cost $5k-$15k depending on local prices. Having an owner fly does compromise expense decisions;
    – I suspect Sisy Arias, who was just licenced in 2014 and a model, was trading off pictures in the company promotions for right seat time in the BAE146. So she probably would initially get a bit of right seat time during the enroute phase;
    – I think the ATC did an appropriate job given what they knew; and
    – It is time the Boliviar government did some inspections rather than just collect permit fees. The Bolivian civil aeronautics dept cannot absolve themselves of blame;
    – The press was all over the flight crew. The press should have left them alone to focus on flight duties;
    – The idea of halting the schedule to look for a computer game is redivulous. The captain/owner should never have gone along with that;
    -lastly, the controller was giving position reports, so it appears that Medellin did have radar.

  18. Lastly, this is a very complicated investigation. A thorough look at the human factors involved by the crew, past performance by the company, qualifications of the crew, company operating requirements, Bolivian air regulations, government inspection standards, crew rest periods, aircraft performance and maintenance history, weather reporting standards, pilot hiring and retention standards, Bolivian safety management practices, and cultural
    impact on cockpit management practices should all be included

  19. What about the number. 422….are you suggesting the capitain or crew were high? Do you even know that most people in South America don’t even know what 422 means? I think it’s so funny how we in first world countries think everybody is wired the same way: rules, regulations, priorities, fines, safety….those are words that have different meaning all over the world. These guys flying the plane were as careless as most people usually are, and are as careless as the directors of the soccer team that decided chartering this airline was ever a good thing.

  20. Al, I don’t understand the 422 reference. I know the flight plan indicated 4 hr 22 min enroute flight time, and the captain declared the endurance of the aircraft as 4 hr and 23 minutes.

    Respect for law and rules vary among any population. However, flight training programs do not vary that much around the world, just on minor ways, in part because most flight manuals are written with the same info. But, also that is why there are regulating agencies that should be inspecting to ensure safe procedures are followed.

  21. So sad, I’m from Venezuela and I can really tell you how the general mindset goes around here, no legality at all and totally ‘relaxed’ people, even in the most important aspects of life.. In this case he payed with the ultimate price.

    En criollo we use to say ‘dale que eso llega’, something in the lines of ‘go on, it will make it’
    but they didn’t!.

    Also this ‘airline’ have the darkest secrets of the new ‘bolivarian revolution’, socialist shit, the nomenclature, because the other owners are regime related figures.

  22. Hello BBK, Very little happens by just luck or faith. Better to call (someone) and say “fix these issues” so the same thing does not happen again. I am familiar with Latin culture, so you may want to point out that no matter who or how wealthy the person is, they might still want to fly at some point?

  23. @Prabuddha
    Priority does not equate to Mayday. The pilot does not at any point of time call for Pan Pan or Mayday, if he had done so, ATC would have give him first priority for sure. I dun think the ATC has any fault in this, its just down to overconfidence and pure greed from the owner pilot.

  24. If factual reports indeed do surface that this pilot had flown this route before with minimum amount of fuel reserves, than this in fact amounts to beyond stupid negligence and insider greed.

    This would confirm that he knew that a fuel stop was needed to complete this flight if unforeseen circumstances came into play. I believe he thought he would make it, seeing as he completed this range before with possibly no halt time upon arrival at the airport which would mean he landed on undetected fumes on a previous occasion. There is no way he didn’t know that he would have to wait on Monday night, as he must have been in continuous contact with ATC minutes before arriving in the vicinity of Medellin.

  25. Flight plan is there to call everyone to account before the journey and aircraft gets off the ground. Its there to protect lives. Sad day in aviation with these cowboys of greed

  26. Sorry we lost 71 human lives in that crash.
    Negligence upon negligence not only once or twice but many times. Why didn’t somebody reported him? So did somebody report him that he got annoyed and conspired a diabolical plan?

  27. There have been follow-ups in recent days between and after Christmas. Lets hope the overall fundings in April 2017 will be enough to prosecute the whole Board of LaMia. The Pilot and Dispatch (Alex) in absentia, as both died in the (what is now described as “avoidable.” Also, prosecute Bolivian Aviation in which Vargas’ Son worked.

    71 widows are grieving and will continue to. However, they also deserve to know the “Truth” and nothing but the Truth. Respect them enough not to fob them off. Also, remember…. these were “passengers” like anyone of us…. Passengers deserve to be taken to their destination safely. The Pilot was obviously trying to impress and instead failed. He looks like his head was not about safety. It was about impressing Chapecoense and their companions. Bad mistake. Very bad mistake indeed. Never try to impress people. Be responsible instead.

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