Human error led to Chapecoense plane crash: Colombia’s Civil Aeronautics agency

There were series of missteps by the pilot, the airline and Bolivian regulators. The plane lacked fuel, was over its weight limit by nearly 400 kilos and was not certified to fly at the altitude at which it was flying.

Human error led to Chapecoense plane crash: Colombia’s Civil Aeronautics agency

Colombian aviation authorities say the plane crash that killed 71 people last month, including most of Brazil's Chapecoense football team, was caused by human error.

There were series of missteps by the pilot, the airline and Bolivian regulators. The plane lacked fuel, was over its weight limit by nearly 400 kilos and was not certified to fly at the altitude at which it was flying.

A recording had already indicated the aircraft had run out of fuel.


Colombia’s Civil Aeronautics agency investigated that the plan for the flight operated by Bolivia-based charter company LaMia did not meet international standards. The pilot also did not report the plane’s emergency until it was too late, it said.

"Neither the company nor Bolivian authorities should have allowed the plane to take off with the flight plan submitted", said Freddy Bonilla, air safety secretary for Colombia’s aviation authority. He said the agency’s preliminary conclusions were based on the plane’s black boxes and other evidence.

The plane was in the air for about 4 hours and 20 minutes when air traffic controllers in Medellin put it into a holding pattern because another flight had reported a suspected fuel leak and was given priority.

Investigators found that crew members of the LaMia flight were aware of the lack of fuel but waited too long to report the emergency.

And when the pilot asked for priority to land in Medellin, six minutes before crashing, the plane had already spent two minutes with a motor shut off, the investigation concluded.

In a recording of a radio message from the pilot, he can be heard repeatedly requesting permission to land due to a lack of fuel and a “total electric failure.” A surviving flight attendant and a pilot flying nearby also overheard the frantic pleas from the doomed airliner.

Investigators in Colombia concluded that the plane did not have the fuel reserves required by international standards for such a flight. They said there was no evidence of sabotage or mechanical failure.

Authorities also detected an excess of baggage, but did not relate it to the accident, and, according to its plan, the flight was expected to reach 30,000 feet, an altitude the plane was not certified for.

Details of the complete report by Colombia’s aviation agency will be released in April 2017. Bolivia, Brazil and the United Kingdom contributed to it.