Pilots blamed for worst accident in Brazil’s aviation history

By Xinhua

Rio De Janeiro : Human error is to blame for the worst accident in Brazil's aviation history on July 17, the weekly magazine Veja claimed Monday.

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Veja based its report on sources that allegedly have had access to the contents of the black box flight data recorder and the cockpit voice recorder. The contents of recorders currently remain under wraps by the Brazilian Air Force.

The sources revealed that the pilots incorrectly adjusted the levers that control the thrust reversal system, causing the engines to work in different directions. This meant that while theleft engine helped the plane slow down, the right one forced it to accelerate.

That could explain why the airplane swerved to the left as it approached the runway's end at Congonhas International Airport, in Sao Paulo.

The analysis of the fight recorders, carried out by the U.S. National Transportation Safety organization, showed that the plane did not skid on the runway flooded with rainwater, and the undercarriage brakes worked when it landed, said the report.

Brazil's Air Force would not confirm the report by Veja, which contradicts previous explanations of the causes of the disaster.

Following the accident, local press and some analysts blamed the recently resurfaced runway for the tragedy. The grooving service, which prevents planes from skidding on rainy days, had still not been completed by the time of the crash.

Another reason stated was the fact that the right engine's thrust reversal was not working.

Veja described the relation between a mechanical failure and the accident as "indirect," as the brake system relies on different devices to stop the aircraft, apart from the thrust reversals.

Had there been a malfunction in one of the engines, explained the weekly, the pilot would have had to operate the levers in a different way from usual, which could have confused Kleyber Lima, who was allegedly piloting the plane when it landed at Congonhas.

The report associated the analysis results with two other disasters with an Airbus A-320 model, which took place in the Philippines, in 1998, and in Taiwan, in 2004. On both occasions, one of the engines' reversals was not working.

After landing at 240 kilometers per hour, the jet, operated by local airline TAM, slammed into a building across the avenue from the airport and burst into flames. The death toll of the accident amounted to 199, including passengers, crew and people working in the building. That figure is subject to change, as the process of identification of the bodies is yet to be completed.