Mozambique pilot’s private life under probe

WINDHOEK. — The private life of the pilot who crashed and killed all passengers on board a Mozambican aircraft in Namibia will form part of the intensive probe into what happened on that fatal flight. The plane crashed in the Bwabwata National Park at the end of November while flying from Mozambique to Angola with 33 passengers on board.

The pilot, Captain Herminio Dos Santos Fernandes, is now the focus of an added investigation into his private life to establish if he had cause to commit suicide or made previous comments towards that end, or was in financial or personal trouble, all aimed at establishing a motive for this apparent suicide.

Details about Fernandes have emerged indicating that he deliberately crashed the plane as an act of suicide.
A co-worker of Fernandes said he had been “very depressed” in the past two months due to marital problems experienced over the last year and a half.

According to the colleague, Fernandes and his wife were not on speaking terms. The details about Fernandes’s private life came shortly after preliminary findings were released indicating that he had locked himself inside the cockpit, ignored warning signals and did not allow his co-pilot back in moments before the Embraer 190 hit the ground.

Namibia’s Director of Aircraft Accidents and Investigation, Ericksson Nengola, confirmed to Namibian Sun that they will definitely investigate the possibility of suicide by the pilot.

He said the information that Fernandes may have been suffering from depression is vital.According to him an investigation team from Namibia will be going to Mozambique early next year to investigate the pilot’s personal life.

“This investigation will focus on human factors such as problems he may have been experiencing in his life,” explained Nengola.
Nengola further stressed that the airline has the responsibility to ensure that all crewmembers are medically and mentally fit.
He added that airline management should be notified in an instance whereby one of the crew is acting “funny or depressed”.
“This situation should be monitored to ensure whether a pilot is able to fly.”

On the other hand the findings of the preliminary report also have serious implications for the Mozambique Airline’s (LAM’s) insurance coverage.

Insurance experts have reportedly said that aircraft insurance does not cover premeditated acts of violence, whether caused by terrorist groups or by the pilot. The preliminary report into the disaster showed that it was caused deliberately by Fernandes.

Detailed readings taken from the flight data and voice recorder, both of which were recovered and sent to the United States for analysis.— Namibian Sun.

suggest that Fernandes locked the door from the inside and then disengaged the programmed route and programmed the aircraft to rapidly descend to below ground level.

The report states that the altitude selector was manually altered three times, bringing the plane’s altitude down from 38 000 feet to 592 feet.

The velocity selector was operated manually several times to bring the speed up to the Embraer’s maximum operating velocity.
Such operations required detailed knowledge of the plane’s controls, and showed a clear intention to crash the aircraft.

If the findings of the preliminary report are confirmed, proving that the pilot chose to destroy the plane, and no mechanical malfunction was involved, then the insurance companies are freed of their obligation to pay compensation to the families, and to pay LAM for the lost plane.

LAM has expressed concern and shock at the findings of the commission investigating the crash.
According to a LAM press release, the company will request a detailed report proving the facts leading to the preliminary conclusions.
The airline has also stated that both pilots had medical checkups in September and they both had valid airline transport pilots’ licences. – Namibian Sun.

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