MAPUTO Dec 22 A Mozambican airliner that
crashed in Namibia last month, killing all 33 people on board,
descended with its automatic pilot on and its altitude selector
set to below ground level, according to a preliminary report
released this weekend.
The report by experts from Namibia's Transport Ministry said
the Mozambique Airlines Embraer ERJ-190, on a Nov. 29 flight
from Maputo to Angola, was "flying in normal conditions and no
mechanical deficiency was detected" when it suddenly began a
descent from its normal cruising altitude.
It crashed in a Namibian game park, killing the 27
passengers and six crew on board.
The report, released to media by Mozambique's Civil Aviation
Institute at the weekend and based on the plane's black box
flight recordings, said the fact that the aircraft made the
descent on autopilot, and after actions that would have required
knowledge of its systems, denoted a "clear intention".
But the document, seen by Reuters, did not spell out what
this intention was and added "the reason for all these actions
is unknown and the investigation is continuing".
According to the report, the flight recordings showed
changes to the plane's speed and altitude had been made
manually, including the altitude selector being set it to a
level below ground level.
It said the commander, Herminio dos Santos, was alone in the
cockpit at the time of the crash, after his co-pilot had gone to
the bathroom. Alarms going off could be heard on the flight
recordings, and also the sound of someone beating on the cockpit
door "as if asking to be let in", it added.
Asked by journalists in Maputo whether the report meant dos
Santos had deliberately crashed the plane, Mozambique's civil
aviation chief Joao Abreu declined to give an answer.
Asked the same question, Mozambique's Transport Ministry
spokesman Verlopes Nhampossa told Reuters the Mozambican
government and civil aviation authorities were not in a position
to "make interpretations" of the experts' report.
The plane's manufacturer, Brazilian aerospace conglomerate
Embraer, said at the time of the crash the aircraft
had been delivered to Mozambique Airlines in November 2012.
Besides the crew, the passengers who died in last month's
crash included 10 Mozambicans, nine Angolans, five Portuguese,
one French, one Brazilian and one Chinese.