HAVANA, (Reuters) – Icing and pilot error caused the Nov. 4 crash of a Cuban Aero Caribbean passenger plane in which the 68 people on board were killed, the Cuban government said yesterday.
Investigators found that “extreme weather conditions” led to a “severe” build up of ice on the plane that, “combined with errors by the crew in the handling of the situation, caused the accident,” the Civil Aeronautics Institute said in a statement.
It said the plane, an ATR 72-212 twin turboprop, built by ATR, a joint venture of Europe’s EADS and Italian group Finmeccanica, had been in good condition and functioned properly before plummeting to the ground in central Cuba.
On that day, Cuba had the unusual condition of a cold front sweeping down from the north while a small hurricane brushed along the island’s eastern tip.
The combination of cold air and very high humidity from the storm created conditions conducive for icing unusual on the tropical island, airplane experts told Reuters.
Most planes flying that day remained at lower altitudes to avoid icing, they said.
The institute said the Aero Caribbean plane flew at 20,000 feet (6,036 metres) after taking off from the eastern city of Santiago en route to Havana on the northwest coast.
The victims included 28 foreigners from 10 countries.
ATR said the plane was 15 years old, had flown almost 25,000 hours and had been operated by state-owned Aero Caribbean since 2006.