Preliminary report released on Spanair disaster that killed 154

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Saturday, October 11, 2008

A preliminary report has been released into the disastrous crash of Spanair Flight 5022 in Madrid, Spain on August 20, which killed 154. The report confirms an earlier leaked finding that the wing flaps failed and no warning sounded to alert the pilots.

The MD-82 was headed from Barajas airport to the Canary Islands. Video footage from airport security cameras shows the airliner travelling across an unusually long distance of runway before take-off. It failed to maintain altitude and quickly dropped back down at the runway's end, before bursting into a fireball. Just eighteen people survived the accident.

The report confirms that the aircraft failed to get beyond forty feet off the ground before entering a stall and crashing. The tail of the jet struck the ground first, and the Spanish Civil Aviation Accident Investigation Commission (CIAIAC)'s report also notes that the aircraft was carrying 10,130 litres (2,673 gallons) of fuel.

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Are Spanair's checks adequate?

The wing flaps were "fully retracted" at "0 degrees" according to the 12-page report, which also notes that the cockpit voice recorder indicates a complete failure of the take-off warning system (TOWS) - which is supposed to alert pilots attempting to take off in a plane that is not properly configured - to sound prior to the failed ascent. Spanair checks the TOWS each day and after every change in flight crew, but neither of these occurred between the accident flight and the flight before.

It is not known when the CIAIAC's final report will be ready, but estimates vary from a few months to two years. The latest report notes "The investigation continues. It will be necessary to carry out tests and an exhaustive examination of the recovered parts of the plane." A separate judicial investigation also continues.

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