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Written by Peter Carter

December 18, 2013

Linhas Aereas de Mocambique (LAM) flight 470 en route from Maputo on Mozambique’s Indian Ocean coast to Luanda on Angola’s Atlantic coast, crashed killing all 28 passengers and 6 crew on 29 October.
About halfway through the transcontinental flight across Southern Africa, the aircraft suddenly began to descend at about 6000 feet per minute over northern Botswana in clear weather. Radar and radio contact was lost with the aircraft north of Botswana’s Okavango Delta as it was entering Namibian airspace.

The burnt wreckage of the Embraer ERJ-190 aircraft was found crashed in the Bwabwata National Park, a remote game park east of Rundu in Namibia’s Caprivi strip that traverses east-west, along Botswana’s northern frontier.

The auto-pilot appears to have been engaged for the entire descent. The rapid descent profile of aircraft prior to impact suggests an intentional crash or some calamity in the cockpit. An alternative theory that the crew may have been unable to maintain control of the aircraft after coming into proximity of rapidly developing super-storm cells observed by satellite at around the same time, has now been discounted.

The crash investigation by air transport authorities of Angola, Mozambique, Botswana and Brazil suggest Captain Herminio dos Santos Fernandes had a “clear intention” to crash the jet and manually changed its autopilot settings.

All occupants were citizens of Mozambique and Angola.

Crashes caused by rogue aircrew taking charge of the cockpit to deliberately cause damage to the aircraft are a rare but concerning phenomenon.

Categories: Aviation law

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