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Sports | 11 October, 2006 [ 11:50 ]

New revelations about plane crash killing Peruvian football team 19 years ago

Alianza Lima in 1987, days for the tragic plane crash(LIP-wb) -- Almost twenty years after the entire team of Peru's most famous football club, Alianza Lima, was killed in a plane crash, an investigative TV report puts Peru's Navy in a bad spot.

On December 8th, 1987, a Peruvian Navy plane, type Fokker-F27, carrying players, coaches, journalists and some fans, crashed into the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Peru's capital, Lima.

The report which aired last night on the Peruvian television program "Indiscreet Window" sheds new light on the tragedy and its cause.

The pilots lack of experience flying at night, misreading the manual for procedures in emergency situations, and also the airplane's bad condition, were the main causes for the crash, according to the report which had access to the final conclusions of the Naval Aviation Commission in charge of the investigation at the time.

According o the report, this document remained locked in a safety deposit box at a bank in the United States for sixteen years, in order to avoid that Peruvians it is known in Peru.

It presumably reveals that the pilot of the airplane, Lieutenant Edilberto Villar, the only survivor of the accident, recorded only 5.3 night-flight hours in the last 90 days before the accident, 3.3 hours in the last 60 days; and none in the last 30 days.

The records of the co-pilot, Cesar Morales, showed a similar situation: only 90 minutes of night-flight experience two months before the crash.

More seriously, the pilots thought that the front landing gear was stuck and reported the problem to flight controllers. The controllers in the flight tower (Corpac) however observed that that this was not the case and responded accordingly.

According to the report, the pilot then ordered his copilot to look for the emergency procedure documented in the flight manual, in order to find a solution. But the manuals were written in English and, reportedly, the copilot's foreign language skills were limited to about 40 percent. Instead of reading the correct instruction, paragraph 1.4.3 marked in orange, he read the instruction paragraph of the manual marked in red.

“A faulty cabin indicator for the front landing gear is a manageable situation, as long as the correct procedures in the manual are executed", is one of the report's conclusions.

In addition, the plane's maintenance log book given to the pilot before take off showed a series of mechanical deficiencies which, according to witnesses, raised the pilot's concern to a point where he initially refused to fly under these conditions.

Fokker F-27 For example, the airplane did not have an inertial guidance system; UHF communication had low reception; the very high frequency omnidirectional range (VOR number) had low sensitivity; the radius altimeter oscillated preventing the pilots from seeing the exact altitude; and finally, the actuator for the front landing gear had worn down.

“Nevertheless, the report concludes that human error was the main cause of the accident, not following flight procedures and not executing the check list. This is outrageous, a military pilot obeys orders”, commented the host of the TV program Cecilia Valenzuela. According to the journalist, the team captain of Alianza Lima, Alex Berrocal, listened to the discussion of the pilots not to fly the plane in that state.

Valenzuela also showed a letter of the Fokker company dated October 16, 1986, - more than a year before the accident- which indicates that the pilot, Edilberto Villar, had not passed a special training course which could have prevented “his disorientation while operating under pressure, the excessive demand of work in a cabin”, but in spite of the failed test he was regarded as a pilot.

The copilot of the airplane, Cesar Morales, had never been trained by the Fokker company.

The TV program promised for next Tuesday to reveal the names of the officials who decided to keep this report hidden. And the victim's relatives were kept in the dark for almost 20 years.

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