The flight crew of the Bolivian British Aerospace Avro RJ85 that crashed in Colombia had declared a fuel emergency while waiting to land at Medellin airport in Rionegro, according to an air traffic control recording.

Operated by charter carrier LAMIA Bolivia, the aircraft was awaiting clearance for final approach to the airport, which had been temporarily closed due to an unscheduled arrival of a VivaColombia flight.

The pilot of the Avro RJ85 initially mentioned an "issue with fuel" while communicating with Medellin airport's ATC, according to the recording reviewed by FlightGlobal.

The air traffic controller responded and said the runway at Medellin would re-open within about 7min, and indicated that LAMIA Bolivia will be given priority to land over other flights operated by Avianca and LATAM Airlines Group.

The LAMIA Bolivia flight was assigned FL210 but declared a fuel emergency 2min later, which prompted ATC to assign the aircraft an approach path while warning the crew of other aircraft below and ahead of it. However, the LAMIA Bolivia crew said they were already below the other aircraft, which were holding at FL180.

About 4.5min after declaring a fuel emergency, the LAMIA Bolivia crew alerted ATC to a "total electrical and fuel failure" and repeatedly shouted: "Give me vectors".

The air traffic controller attempted to guide the pilot to the Rionegro VOR but said she could not ascertain the aircraft's altitude. The pilot confirmed that the aircraft was at an altitude of 9,000ft and again requested for vectors.

ATC told the crew that they were 8.2miles from the runway, which has an elevation of 7,000ft.

ATC subsequently lost contact with the aircraft, 6min after it declared an emergency.

Medellin airport had temporarily closed its runway following the diversion of a VivaColombia Airbus A320 to the airport after its flight crew reported a cabin alert. VivaColombia says the flight crew had diverted as a precautionary measure and did not declare an emergency. The VivaColombia aircraft was operating from Bogota to San Andres.

LAMIA crash


The crash of the Avro RJ85, which broke into pieces after coming down in a mountainous area, killed 71 people while six survived. Colombian authorities initially reported that 81 people had been on board, but subsequently revised the passenger numbers.

There were no signs of fire at the crash site of the aircraft, indicating that the jet could have run out of fuel. A source at Argentina's transport ministry tells FlightGlobal that LAMIA Bolivia, which had operated a flight to Argentina earlier this month from Brazil, had arrived in Buenos Aires with only 15min of fuel reserves on board.

Questions have also been raised over LAMIA Bolivia's operation of the Avro RJ85, which has an operational range that is just slightly above the distance of the flight between Medellin and Santa Cruz in Bolivia, where the aircraft took off from.

Source: Cirium Dashboard