RwandAir has suspended all operations with JetLink Express Bombardier CRJ aircraft following the fatal building collision at Kigali Airport, as investigators examine the role of the aircraft's throttle in the accident.

Kenyan investigators are heading the inquiry into the 12 November accident which killed one of the 13 passengers on board the CRJ100ER of Nairobi-based JetLink.

It had been operating flight WB205 to Entebbe, on behalf of RwandAir, but two minutes after its 12:40 departure the aircraft's crew requested a return to Kigali, citing a throttle-lever problem.

Although the aircraft landed safely and taxied to the parking bay, RwandAir says that the aircraft "suddenly accelerated" as ground personnel were placing chocks on the main landing-gear. The reason for the acceleration is not known.

The CRJ turned to the right, it adds, and travelled nose-first into the wall of a low building - which is used as a VIP lounge - at the eastern base of the control tower. The jet's cockpit was destroyed in the impact.

RwandAir/JetLink CRJ crash

Both pilots suffered broken bones. Three other crew members - an engineer and two flight attendants - suffered lesser injuries, but RwandAir confirms that one of the passengers hospitalised after the crash subsequently died.

The precise ground path travelled by the aircraft is unclear. Although RwandAir says the CRJ "covered a distance of 500m", Kigali Airport has a relatively small apron. The control tower and VIP building are sited about 160m from the main passenger terminal.

RwandAir, which had leased the 12-year old jet (5Y-JLD) from JetLink, stresses that it had conducted a safety audit the Kenyan carrier.

But it states: "All operations with the JetLink CRJ aircraft have been suspended while investigations of this incident are ongoing." The decision will affect services to Johannesburg and Nairobi.

RwandAir, which is taking CRJ200s from Lufthansa CityLine, adds that it is to "fast-track" the delivery of aircraft to its fleet. It has also recruited Lufthansa Technik for support.

While Kenyan authorities will be in charge of the investigation, the carrier is suggesting that the US FAA be included as a neutral party.

CRJ100s are fitted with General Electric CF34 engines. There is no immediate evidence of any problem with the powerplants on the RwandAir aircraft.

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news