( by Graham Kelley, The Guardian, Saturday August 23 2008 )
The Spanish pilots’ union sent a series of letters and emails to Spanair’s senior management warning of safety worries more than a year before Wednesday’s crash at Madrid airport claimed 153 lives, it emerged yesterday.
In one letter the union, Sepla, wrote to Lars Nygaard, then Spanair director, and Marcus Hedblom, present managing director, warning: “The operative chaos is putting passengers at risk.”
The letter, dated April 2007, said: “It’s our obligation to inform you of the elevated unease which exists between ourselves for the daily running [of the company] for the past month.” It alluded to a lack of resources, a scarcity of ground crew and a number of planes which had been declared unfit to fly.
In another letter, pilots complained “unfortunately all this indicates this will end in chaos”, and in a further letter the union warned: “The norms about operating punctuality, desired by all, stop in many cases the realisation of norms of airline security.”
Spanair did not respond to attempts by the Guardian to verify the claims.
Meanwhile, a video of the crash yesterday suggested it was not caused by either of the plane’s engines bursting into flames, as had first been thought.
The video shows Spanair flight JK 5022 take off and struggle to gain altitude, never rising higher than 50 metres, before it crashes to the ground. The plane then skids along the runway, breaks apart and bursts into flames.
The security video, taken by AENA, which runs Spain’s airports, appears to contradict suggestions that an explosion or fire in one of the engines could have led to the crash at Barajas airport.
Manuel Bautista, director general of AENA, said the plane had suffered more than one fault. “The motor is not the cause of the accident,” he said.
One of the investigators, Emilio Valerio, told the Cadena Ser radio station the video would be used to establish the cause of the tragedy.
A recently married couple who met in London were among those who lost their lives in the crash. Brazilian Ronaldo Gomes Silva, 25, and his Spanish wife, Yanina Celis Dibowsky, 21, met when they were living in London and married last month in Brazil.
The couple were making a visit to the Canary Islands to stay with her family before returning to London to begin their married life.
The groom’s father, Julião Alves da Silva, told Brazilian television: “I am destroyed. I have lost my son and a daughter-in-law.”
Silva is thought to have arrived in London in 2004, and worked as a motorcycle courier. Dibowsky worked there as an ice-cream seller.
Silva’s brother Rodinaldo, 27, who also lives in London, has flown to Madrid to arrange for his body to be returned to Brazil.
Also killed was Siomara Hernández, 19, who was 12 weeks pregnant, along with her baby son Tanausu and 15-year-old sister Abenauara. They were flying back to the Canary Islands to celebrate news of her pregnancy with family.
A funeral will be held for the victims of the crash in Madrid’s Almudena Cathedral on September 1. And with at least 20 of the victims coming from the Canary Islands, authorities on the islands were planning a large funeral there in the coming days.
(Taken from guardian.co.uk)