Pilots arrested over aircraft, fire truck collision on runway
Following last Friday’s fatal runway collision involving a departing LATAM Airlines Airbus A320neo and a fire truck, the flying pilots were arrested and held in custody in Lima, the capital of Peru.
The pilots’ arrests have stirred protests by the International Federation Air Line Pilots’ Association (IFALPA).
The bizarre accident happened at Aeropuerto Internacional Jorge Chávez, where LATAM Airlines was scheduled to operate a domestic flight service LA 2213, using one of its Airbus A320neo registered CC-BHB. Everything was routine as the pilots prepared for their take-off roll and were ready to depart.
As LA 2213 was acculturating through its take-off roll, airport fire trucks were crossing the very same runway in a scheduled fire drill that the pilots were unaware of.
Unfortunately, the pilots were unable to stop the aircraft, which had reached more than 120 knots, and this resulted in a tragic collision with one of the airport fire trucks.
The crash led to the landing gear collapsing and the right engine and wing bursting into flames. While it was fortunate that LA 2213 suffered no passenger or crew fatalities, the same sadly could not be said of the firefighters driving the fire truck. Two died, and one remains in a critical condition.
In the wake of the accident, the flight crew of LA 2213 was arrested and held in custody. After discovering their arrests, IFALPA voiced their concerns as the union emphasised that the flight crew should have been provided immediate medical care and evaluation before being subjected to criminal arrest. The union said: “In no circumstances is it appropriate to question the flight crew of LATAM 2213 in the immediate aftermath of any accident or incident until they have been professionally evaluated by qualified medical personnel. The evaluation is to help determine their mental and physical fitness to contribute accurate information to investigators.”
The union also further emphasized that arresting the pilots so soon was in complete disregard for the Positive Safety Culture principles laid out by Annex 13 (Aircraft Accident and Incident Investigation) and Annex 19 (Safety Management) of the Convention on International Civil Aviation.
Most importantly, IFALPA noted that the immediate arrest would lead to the public believing that the accident resulted from the pilots’ intentional acts instead of considering other possible causes. Other causes included technical or mechanical issues or even a string of human errors triggered by multiple factors.
Eventually, the pilots were released from custody the following night, albeit it remains unclear if they are still under arrest.