The German Government could face claims for millions of dollars from dependents of those killed in a mid-air collision off the West African coast last September, following evidence that the German air force Tupolev Tu-154 was at the wrong altitude.

Investigations have revealed that the pilot of the Tu-154 en route to Windhoek, Namibia, which collided on 13 September with an outward-bound US Air Force Lockheed C-141B Starlifter, was flying at an altitude reserved for outward-bound traffic. All 24 passengers and crew aboard the Tu-154 and all nine on the C-141 died.

The German defence ministry says that, according to the flight plan, the Tupolev was to have been at 39,000ft (12,000m), whereas its altitude was 35,000ft. Both these planned and actual altitudes are reserved for outgoing traffic.

US law allows the families of the American servicemen killed to claim damages in "three figure millions" of deutschmarks, according to Bonn sources. Each of the families of those aboard the Tu-154 has received only DM50,000 ($27,000). Families of the German victims are reported to be requesting equal treatment.

Source: Flight International