Three pilots on board an Aeroméxico flight that crashed shortly after take-off from Guadalupe Victoria airport in Durango on July 31 have been dismissed.
The Mexico City-bound Embraer 190 aircraft with 99 passengers and four crew on board smashed into scrubland near the runway during bad weather that included heavy rain, hail and strong winds.
The plane was severely damaged and burst into flames but all 103 people on board survived, although most were injured.
The plane’s captain and a two-year-old girl were hospitalized for a longer period, the former to undergo back surgery, the latter to be treated for burns.
Investigators said Wednesday that a sudden downdraft known as a microburst appeared to be responsible for bringing the plane down.
“No human or mechanical failures were detected,” said the investigative team overseen by the civil aviation division of the Secretariat of Communications and Transportation (SCT).
It also said “there was no information that would have made the crew consider delaying takeoff.”
However, civil aviation director Luis Gerardo Fonseca confirmed a rumor that there were three pilots in the cockpit and that a trainee pilot “without authorization to operate” an aircraft was improperly seated in the co-pilot’s seat when the plane took off.
The plane’s captain had taken over controls from the trainee just before it crashed, he said.
In a letter to colleagues, Aeroméxico general director Andrés Conesa said that while evidence showed that poor weather was most likely to blame for the crash, the pilots had broken protocol and for that reason, they were dismissed.
“Irrespective of the evidence . . . pointing to weather-related factors, the conduct of the three pilots in the cockpit was not carried out in accordance with established protocols, deliberately violating the policies, manuals and procedures of our company,” he wrote.
“This kind of behavior is unacceptable and we are not going to allow, for any reason, the conduct of these people to put at risk the trust that more than 20 million customers around the world place in us . . .”
In the aftermath of the crash the plane’s captain, Carlos Galván Mayrán, was praised as a hero by many who said that his handling of the plane had saved the lives of the passengers and crew on board.
Now, just over a month later, Galván, first officer Daniel Dardon and the trainee pilot all find themselves out of a job.
But Fonseca, who said “today more than ever our number-one priority is and will continue to be the culture of safety, transparency and discipline,” was unrepentant.
“Nobody is above safety or our values, which are our guide so that conduct like this never happens again.”