Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Intoxicated Pilot Causes Death of 4 British Tourists in Peru

The families of four British tourists witnessed the results of a UK inquest yesterday (September 26), whereby they learned that their loved ones, Andrew Brown, 30, Gayle Callow, 34, Alastair Rowe, 34, and Warren Denham, 34, all died last year as a result of gross pilot error in Peru when the group was attempting to see the world-famous Nazca Lines (http://www.go2peru.com/nazca_lines).

The inquest at the High Wycombe law courts heard that the four Britishers and the pilot and co-pilot all died instantly when the aircraft hit the ground, largely because the intoxicated pilot, Ricardo Cardenas Garcia, 40, and Gilberto Ziniga Sanchez, 56, co-pilot, failed to turn on the engine's fuel supply. As a result, the Cessna 185 crashed suddenly 90 seconds into the flight because the small amount of fuel remaining in the line had expired and the cut-off switch had not been checked.

COMMENT: Lisa Fitzsimons of the UK Air Accidents Investigation Branch said a substantial amount of alcohol was found in the pilot's blood; the crew members also were seen arguing before takeoff, which led to a rushed mandatory pre-flight systems check. The aircraft had taken off from Maria Reiche Airport before the crash.

The inquest also revealed that the accident report prepared by Peru's civil aviation authority had documented very well the numerous pilot error factors that caused the plane to crash. It was also disclosed that Peruvian aviation regulations prohibit pilots from consuming alcoholic beverages 24 hours prior to a flight, but that obviously was a variable that contributed to the crash, considering that the pilot had a substantial amount of alcohol in his blood.

It is always sad to see international travelers die abroad, particularly in cases such as this. In my recent posting on the crash of a sightseeing aircraft at Mt. Everest I emphasized that the discipline and judgment of pilots in developing countries is much, much different from what we may be used to at home. Unfortunately, none of the passengers could have known that the fuel supply had not been turned on, but it is possible that they had observed questionable behavior on the part of the pilots which potentially could have led the tourists to conclude that perhaps they should fly another day. As we now know, that was not in the cards.

In developing countries, it is never good to be rushed in doing anything. Reportedly, the pilots were rushed because the booking was made at the last minute late in the day, just 20 minutes before an aviation curfew began. The curfew had been recently instituted following a previous plane crash in the area.

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