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Pilot lands suspended prison sentence after Vienna crash

Court says A310 captain "endangered lives" by ignoring low-fuel warnings three years ago

The captain of a Hapag-Lloyd Airbus A310-300 that ran out of fuel just short of the runway at Vienna airport three years ago, has been given a six-month suspended prison sentence by a Hanover, Germany court for "endangering others' lives".

Capt Wolfgang Arminger had voluntarily left his job at the German charter airline around six months after the accident. The court said he had ignored low-fuel warnings that began while he was over the Balkans when he was operating a flight on 12 July 2000 from Chania, Crete, to Hanover. The A310's landing gear would not retract after take-off from Chania, but the captain elected to continue to the destination, and the court criticised him for failing to take the option of diverting to a nearer airport such as Zagreb.

When it became clear that the aircraft would not reach Hanover, the crew decided to land at Vienna. However, both engines stopped almost simultaneously during the approach to the airport, forcing the crew to glide about 18km (10nm) before crash-landing around 500m (1,600ft) short of the runway. Twenty-six of the 149 people on-board suffered minor injuries.

The pilot told the hearing he had relied on the flight management system, which had not been functioning. But the Austrian accident inquiry commission said he "made errors in evaluating the amount of fuel", which was being consumed at almost twice the normal rate because the landing gear had remained deployed.

CHRISTINA MACKENZIE / PARIS

 

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