Experts examine black boxes from crashed plane
Most aviation experts although unable to pinpoint the likely cause for the crash suggest a chain of technical faults could have brought the plane down.22 August 2008
MADRID -- Spanish aviation officials have begun studying the two black boxes from the MD-82 plane that crashed Wednesday at Madrid's Barajas Airport, Deputy Prime Minister María Teresa Fernández de la Vega said Thursday.
"They have the black boxes and some images from when the plane was taking off... and they are going to investigate exhaustively," De la Vega told reporters. "We will know everything that happened."
Aviation experts said it is only a matter of time before the causes of the crash, in which 153 people died, are determined.
Spanish investigators are being helped by a team from the plane's US manufacturer Boeing, who arrived in Madrid on Thursday.
"All the evidence is there: the black boxes, clues on the runway, information from the control tower, technicians' maintenance reports, the service history," noted Antonio Martín Carrillo, the dean of the Madrid College of Aeronautic Engineers.
However, so far aviation experts have been unable to pinpoint a likely cause for a crash that many have described as unusual. Most have ruled out the possibility that repairs carried out to a faulty air intake valve before the plane took off could have played a role.
"The fault that was fixed by Spanair's maintenance technicians could not have had an influence on the crash," José María Delgado, the head of a Spain's Association of Aeronautic Maintenance Technicians, said.
Convergence of faults
Instead, experts suggested a chain of "technical faults" may have converged to bring the plane down just seconds after it took off, or that an object may have struck the plane's left engine causing it to catch fire as witnesses described.
However, an engine fire alone should not have caused the plane to veer off course and crash, Felipe Laorden, a representative of the Official College of Commercial Aviation Pilots (Copac), said.
"The plane is prepared for that kind of eventuality," Laorden said, noting that it should have been able to fly on its other engine. He explained, however, that an engine exploding would have "unpredictable" consequences that the pilot may not be able to control.
The body of the pilot, Antonio García Luna, was found with both arms broken, suggesting he may have been attempting to apply the brakes even though the plane had accelerated passed the so-called point of no return.
Some experts speculated that the plane's thrust reversers, which are used to slow the aircraft as it lands, could have deployed automatically, causing the loss of control. A similar incident was responsible for a comparable crash in Thailand in 1991.
[El Pais / A Eatwell / Expatica]