Pilot incapacitation, combined with a mechanical fault, caused the Tarom Romanian Airlines Airbus Industrie A310-300 crash which killed all 60 people on board, according to investigators in Bucharest.
Lack of aircrew response to an extreme nose-down attitude, which developed during the climb shortly after take-off from Bucharest, has led the investigation commission to conclude that the captain was either incapacitated or absent from his seat, says commission president, Sorin Stoicescu.
Although the investigation of the 31 March, 1995, accident has been notified as completed, the report has not yet been released.
The mechanical fault was in the right power lever, which remained at take-off power while the autothrottle servo retarded the left lever when the crew selected "climb" power.
An interim report released by Bucharest in 1995 says that, although the autothrottle was engaged, the first officer - who was the pilot flying - was handling the aircraft manually.
Having begun a left turn as a normal part of the departure procedure, the aircraft continued its turn left through the required heading and began to descend, hitting the ground in a left turn with an 80¹ nose-down attitude some 40s after the power asymmetry had begun to develop. Weather conditions were poor visibility in snow.
A "sticky" right throttle in the same aircraft had been reported previously, but had been successfully handled manually, say flightcrew sources close to Tarom.
Stoicescu, who says that it is not the purpose of the investigators to apportion blame, states that the "incapacitation" conclusion had been reached because the captain had not said anything while the critical situation was developing.
Just before impact, however, the first officer is heard on the cockpit-voice recorder to express concern about what was going on, and an attempt at recovery was initiated. It has been inferred that the co-pilot's concern could have been about the captain's condition as well as the aircraft's attitude.
Blame for the October 1996 crash of a TAM Fokker 100 at Sao Paulo, Brazil has been aimed uniquely at the aircraft manufacturer by the official accident report.
The aircraft crashed within 3km (1.5nm) of take-off from Sao Paulo Conghonas Airport, killing all 96 people on board, following an uncommanded deployment of the right-engine thrust reverser, according to the Brazilian civil-aviation authority.
Because of a reverser-system component failure, the pilots did not receive clear in-cockpit indication of the deployment.
Source: Flight International