World News

Spanair crash result of human, technical error

A video grab shows a cloud of smoke rising at the end of a runway as the Spanair flight JK5022 crashed on takeoff at Madrid's Barajas airport on August 20, 2008. REUTERS/ELPAIS.COM/Handout

MADRID (Reuters) - A systems failure and pilots’ error combined to cause the crash of the Spanair jetliner that killed 154 people in Madrid last year, concluded a preliminary report released on Monday.

Spanair MD82’s flaps and slats were not extended as the aircraft was preparing for takeoff, but this was not noticed during the pilots’ routine pre-departure check and the automatic on-board system did not alert the error, Spain’s Civil Aviation Accidents Commission said in its report.

“The aircraft had the standard procedures and check lists in force ... which included the selection and confirmation of the correct configuration for takeoff,” the report said.

“The pilots used these procedures as a reference, but for some reason -- whether an interruption from the aircraft’s first return to the terminal due to a mechanical problem, pressure due to time delays or faults in the cabin crew’s work methods --, these were not strictly followed,” it added.

The Canary Island-bound flight shot off the runway into a ravine on takeoff and burst into flames on Aug 20, 2008. It was Spain’s worst air crash in 25 years. Eighteen people survived.

The Commission also made seven recommendations to improve international air safety which will be sent to the European Air Safety Agency, the International Civil Aviation Organization, and the Federal Aviation Administration in the United States.

The recommendations include pilots’ verifying the aircraft’s take-off warning system (TOWS) prior to every departure rather than just the first flight of the day and a request to Boeing to review its TOWS.

The MD-80 family is manufactured by McDonnell Douglas, which is now part of Boeing Co. Spanair is owned by Catalan investors and Scandanavia’s SAS.

The Commission also recommended an annual international aviation conference to revise check lists, crew training and improvements in work methods to ensure that crews correctly configure their aircraft before takeoff and landing.

Reporting by Teresa Larraz; Writing by Tracy Rucinski; Editing by Jon Loades-Carter