November 30, 2016 1:39 PM   Subscribe

On November 28, Chapecoense, a small club from Santa Catarina in Brazil was boarding a flight headed to Medellín, where they would face Atlético Nacional in the first leg of the Copa Sudamericana (the CONMEBOL second-tier club trophy). A few hours later, the day ended in tragedy as the plane crashed on the mountains outside the host city, killing 76 of the 81 on board. The flight included the squad and staff, but also 21 journalists covering the big game, and early reports claim it ran out of fuel on the approach and was facing electrical problems.

As the city mourns, the world pays their tributes, with words of comfort from "brothers in tragedy" Manchester United and Torino, with all top-level mid-week matches being preceded by a moment of silence. In a showing of fair play, several brazilian teams have lined up free loan offers, and petitioned the Brazilian Federation to protect Chape from relegation for the next three years, while Atlético Nacional also pressed CONMEBOL to declare their opponents as winners of the competition.
posted by lmfsilva (27 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
posted by Jubey at 1:47 PM on November 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

posted by Pope Guilty at 1:50 PM on November 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

posted by FallowKing at 2:06 PM on November 30, 2016

Meanwhile Brazils corrupt and venal politicians completely ignored this and instead approved the first vote for hardline austerity measures which will affect the havenots more than the arrogant rich. Outside the senate the police gassed and beatup protestors in what is for them normal behavior
posted by adamvasco at 2:41 PM on November 30, 2016 [3 favorites]

Sports journalist Ewan MacKenna's Twitter feed has been quick off the mark with facts and figures pointing to the most likely cause - everything points to a simple lack of fuel at this stage.
posted by kersplunk at 2:42 PM on November 30, 2016

There was no explosion on the crash landing and a surviving stewardess has stated that the plane ran out of fuel.
That 5 passengers have survived is extraordinary.
But ran out of fuel is incredibly lax somewhere along the way. I wonder if anyone will ever be found responsible.
Poor families poor friends poor city to loose all their dreams so tragically. 22 journalists also died.
posted by adamvasco at 2:50 PM on November 30, 2016

Running out of fuel is often not someone being lax but airlines implementing cost saving measures.

Those poor families.
posted by kitten magic at 3:04 PM on November 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

Football is a big part of community and identity for these people. This must be such a rough time for them. I'm so sorry.

I noticed something by it's absence in the media coverage. As the reports came in and the speculation began, no-one suggested terrorism. I've become accustomed to terrorism being the default when they don't know what happened.
posted by adept256 at 3:05 PM on November 30, 2016

posted by Kattullus at 3:24 PM on November 30, 2016

For authoritative coverage of the technical aspects of the crash, see the Aviation Herald, a website by and for airline staff that covers everything from minor incidents to crashes by reporting on the actual accident reports and enquiries.

The coverage of LMI-2933 is noteworthy for pointing out that the aircraft in question, an RJ-85, has a maximum range of 2965km while the great circle distance between Santa Cruz (Bolivia) and Medellin (Colombia) is ... 2975km. And of course there was no sign of a fuel fire at the crash site, and from the photographs of the debris, the engines weren't running at the time of impact.

In other words, someone was being very naughty in operating that aircraft type on that route without a refueling stop en route.
posted by cstross at 3:28 PM on November 30, 2016 [12 favorites]


To follow up on cstross's very naughty, the operator's main owner was the pilot in charge of the flight, and the flight taken was longer than the direct route, because they had to start in Bolivia, where the charter airline was based. From the Aviation Herald's main rival, PPrune (Professional Pilots' Rumour Network): There have been a number of folks asking why a number of clubs and national teams used this operator. Quite simply they were "recommended" by Conmebol, the South American federation.
posted by ambrosen at 3:33 PM on November 30, 2016 [5 favorites]

posted by Smart Dalek at 3:35 PM on November 30, 2016

posted by umbú at 3:58 PM on November 30, 2016

According to this report quoting from an Avianca pilot in the vicinity there was another plane making an emergency landing at the time of the crash.
And Conmebol is corrupt as they come.
posted by adamvasco at 4:06 PM on November 30, 2016 [1 favorite]


How sad, and how totally fucking unnecessary.
posted by BlueHorse at 4:48 PM on November 30, 2016 [2 favorites]

The timeline seems to be that the plane was at the very limit of its range - if not beyond it - had to hold for the other emergency (fuel leak) coming in, the engines flamed out, thus the electrics died (which takes you off radar, as your transponders no longer work and thus the radar can't identify you), and as a result the crew couldn't get vectored in to glide to the airport on the minimal instruments left. If they could have anyway - everyone thought dead stick landings from altitude were so certain to fail that nobody trained for them until the Gimli Glider, and there are a lot of reasons that often, they will be no-chancers.

And the owner of the airline was at the controls, which is normally a very bad idea as they don't have much current experience, will make bad decisions and break rules, and nobody will feel able to argue with them.

Little of this is confirmed yet, but it's a consistent story with a lot of anecdotal evidence that explains what happened. Why it happened - why anyone, even the boss, thought it acceptable to fly in on fumes knowing that this will be the case when they took off, with no possible alternate or capacity for holding - is the actual cause to be determined,

If things pan out as above, this wasn't an accident, this was mass homicide.
posted by Devonian at 7:02 PM on November 30, 2016 [2 favorites]

This was heinously, criminally negligent. Aren't planes supposed to carry enough fuel to go, like, an hour beyond their landing target just in case there's weather or a diversion or something? Allowing that plane to fly and pretty high capacity when the plotted course was already past its maximum limit is unthinkable.

posted by TwoStride at 9:19 PM on November 30, 2016 [1 favorite]


Supposed to, sure. At some level, there's an expectation that you (the pilot in command) want to survive the flight, too.
posted by tiaz at 9:44 PM on November 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

posted by Mister Bijou at 11:08 PM on November 30, 2016

Random question: does the transponder turn off when the engines die in a lot of planes? I'd have thought that spending some weight on a battery/UPS for the transponder and radio seems moderately to incredibly worth it. I'm used to military kit, and it's all about the redundancy. Something quite so mission critical seems a weird place to skimp, though.
posted by jaduncan at 12:47 AM on December 1, 2016

Regarding fuel and aircraft range, an article published on Jet Airliner Crash Data Evaluation Centre indicates that with extended range fuel tanks the aircraft could achieve a much longer range.

--- According to Colombia media, the pilots requested a holding because the flight experienced some kind of electrical problems. A minute later the pilots requested priority handling. After two circles, the aircraft cancelled the holding and proceeded northbound its altitude gradually decreasing to 15,000 ft. before contact was lost. Last indication on Flightradar24 showed an airspeed of just 142 Knots.
posted by xdvesper at 12:55 AM on December 1, 2016

I'd have thought that spending some weight on a battery/UPS for the transponder and radio seems moderately to incredibly worth it.

From the discussion linked by ambrosen:
An old friend worked on the 146 for a time and mentioned that it had a hefty Nickel Cadmium pack, unsurprisingly, given one of its original rough field, no cart roles. The crash aircraft had been in storage for 3? years. One thing that NiCads *hate* is not being used regularly and they lose capacity permanently. For sure it would have deteriorated.
posted by hat_eater at 3:27 AM on December 1, 2016

A very great deal of work has gone into making sure that aircraft don't run out of fuel - there are procedures, checks and very hard rules about calculating fuel requirements, loading the right amount, and having various contingencies provided for. Increasing battery size to power the transponders when all generators fail would increase fuel burn rate, so... is that the right way to improve the situation? By how much?

Every time there's an aviation disaster, there's always some technical fix for the extraordinary that would have prevented it, but there are always downsides.

Most - almost all - disasters these days aren't primarily technical; they're human.

The biggest move to greater safety right now would be to get the pilots off the flight deck and leave it to the machines. We're nowhere near ready for that, because the downsides are all too easily envisaged while the benefits are abstruse and statistical. Everyone can imagine a massive systems failure and a plane falling out of the sky because there's nobody at the controls, and yes that will happen: the fact that it will happen far less than an aircraft running out of fuel because of bad decisions, a pilot going mad, or a flight deck misreading a developng situation, is not easy to accept at an emotional level.
posted by Devonian at 9:11 AM on December 1, 2016

Jesus: according to this NPR report, the pilot skipped a planned re-feuling stop, possibly because they were behind schedule on departure.
posted by TwoStride at 11:57 AM on December 1, 2016

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