A310-300 captain accused of ignoring cockpit warnings on flight from Crete to Hanover

German prosecutors are requesting a summons against the captain of a Hapag-Lloyd Airbus A310 which ran out of fuel on approach to Vienna in 2000, claiming that evidence shows he ignored low-fuel cockpit warnings and opted not to divert to the nearer Zagreb airport.

The aircraft's right main landing gear failed to retract after departure from Crete on 12 July 2000 and the crew - operating flight HF3378 to Hanover - opted to continue despite the higher fuel burn.

When it became clear that the aircraft would not reach Hanover the crew decided to land at Vienna. But the A310's fuel ran out shortly before touchdown and it crashed 500m (1,600ft) short of the runway. Of the 142 passengers on board, 26 suffered minor injuries.

Austrian air accident investigators are due to release their final report this week having recompiled, in the wake of comments from interested parties, parts of the human factors section of a draft released in July.

But the Hanover public prosecutor's office has already warned that it is preparing a summons against the captain, centred on a possible charge of "dangerous interference" relating to air traffic operation. The charge carries a possible prison sentence of up to 10 years.

"Sufficient suspicion exists that the captain ignored visual and acoustic warning signals," says the prosecutor's office. The crew should "have had to approach the next available airport owing to lack of fuel", it adds.

It says that cockpit systems warned of a fuel crisis at 13:01, nearly an hour before the attempt to land at Vienna, and adds: "The pilot nevertheless did not approach the nearby Zagreb airport but wanted to continue to reach the [more distant] Vienna airport."

Investigator Gunther Raicher says: "We received some comments on the draft report and have had to redo the human factors chapter."

Hapag-Lloyd says the pilot voluntarily left the airline six months after the crash. "The pilot is in charge of the operation of an aircraft; we do not interfere," it adds.

Source: Flight International