Claims Pilot Descended Below Minimums
A report profiling
a Crossair crash near Zurich, two years ago that killed 24 people,
says serious pilot errors were to blame for the
Switzerland's Air Accident Investigation Bureau also criticized
shortcomings of the aircraft operator, Crossair. The Federal
Prosecutor's Office said on Tuesday that it had opened a criminal
investigation into possible negligent homicide and grievous bodily
harm by negligence.
The accident report confirmed that the pilot of the Avro RJ-100
(file photo, below) descended below minimums, ignoring automatic
alarm signals. The jet, which was flying from Berlin to Zurich on
the night of November 24, 2001, crashed into woodland just short of
the runway, killing 24 of the 33 people on board.
The report said the 57-year-old pilot of Crossair flight LX3579
was much too tired to be able to concentrate fully or make crucial
decisions during the approach. The pilot had been working for more
than 13 hours when the crash occurred and had also exceeded maximum
duty times in the two days before the accident.
The Air Accident Investigation Bureau concluded that the pilot's
"ability to concentrate and take appropriate decisions, as well as
his ability to analyze complex processes were adversely affected by
fatigue". It also blamed the co-pilot for not taking
action to rectify the pilot's error during the instrument
The report also
criticized a lack of safety controls and poor pilot training at
Crossair, which formed the backbone of the new national carrier,
Swiss. It added that senior managers should have identified that
the pilot was not in a fit state to fly.
Officials said training deficiencies unearthed by the crash
investigation were not isolated. "We know of about at least 40
similar cases," the report said.
Investigators noted that the range of hills over which the plane
flew was not marked on navigational charts. The Federal Office for
Civil Aviation (FOCA) was also singled out for failing to supervise
Crossair's training program.
In addition, the Swiss air traffic control agency, Skyguide, was
criticized for only having one person on duty at the time of the
accident instead of the usual four.
Even though Swiss admitted that the pilot was to blame for the
crash, it defended its safety record, saying it had always met all
national and international safety requirements. Swiss said it was
not sure why the "highly experienced" captain had dropped below the
The carrier pointed out that since the accident it had
introduced a new flight safety program covering recruitment,
training, checks, workflow and procedures throughout its
operations. The company has also taken the unusual measure of
creating its own Flight Safety Advisory Board. All the
recommendations made by the investigators had already been put into
practice, the company said.
Swiss said it had paid compensation to the families of the
victims but was still facing lawsuits in Switzerland, Germany and
The investigation into another Crossair plane crash, this time
in January 2000 in which ten people died, has also identified pilot
error as the cause of the accident.