The Chapecoense plane crash could have been averted if it carried enough fuel. An audio recording confirms that fuel burnout caused the crash.
Minutes before the crash, the pilot had radioed for assistance for an emergency landing, the Washington Post reports.
“Miss, LaMia 933 is in complete failure, complete electrical failure, without fuel,” the pilot says in the recording.
The air traffic controller, a woman, then told the pilot the runway is ready. She also warned him to expect rain on the surface.
The pilot replied, asking for ‘vectors’ or landing directions. “You’re at zero-point-one miles to the Rio Negro border,” she says. “I don’t have your altitude.”
Pilot’s Final Words: Vectors! Vectors!
The pilot replied, “9,000 feet, Miss. His final words were, “Vectors! Vectors!”
The woman tells him he is about eight miles from the runway. She repeatedly asks, “What’s your altitude now?” There was no response.
According to WP, Flightradar 24 data shows the aircraft flying in a circular pattern before it crashed.
The plane’s tail rammed into a mountain top at the Cerro Gordo range, Colombia. The rear portion was cut off while the rest of the plane slid down the other side of the slope.
Shortly before the impact, the plane’s speed was at 135 knots or about 155 mph. The slower speed — along with the fact that the plane did not explode on impact — might explain how six people were able to survive, authorities said.
An AP reported cited an email sent by the air traffic controller to her colleagues. She says she did everything humanly and technically possible to save the lives of the plane’s passengers.
Chapecoense Plane Crash, Rare Case of Fuel Burnout
Aviation experts say fuel burnout occurs rarely. International regulations require planes to carry enough extra fuel to fly at least 30 to 45 minutes.
LaMia Airlines used the BAE 146 Avro RJ85 jet in this flight. The plane’s maximum range was 2,965 kilometers (1,600 nautical miles). This is just under the distance between Medellin and Santa Cruz, Bolivia, where the plane took off.
The plane has a maximum fuel capacity of 21,000. It burns fuel at rate of 4,500-5,000 pounds an hour.
But, upon approach to the airport, air traffic controllers placed the in a holding pattern. They gave priority to another flight, which reported a suspected fuel leak. By that time, the Chapecoense plane had been in the air for about 4 hours and 20 minutes. This meant that the plane either had little fuel let or had run out of fuel.
In a news conference on the Chapecoense plane crash, Colombian aviation authorities admitted that the plane did not have any fuel left when it crashed. However, they did not say if the recording was genuine. Initially, their investigation focused on electrical problems.