Pilots Jailed After Firetruck Accident


The International Federation of Air Line Pilots’ Associations (IFALPA) is protesting the arrest and incarceration of the two pilots operating the A320neo that was hit by a firetruck on a runway in Lima, Peru, last week. Immediately after the accident, which killed two firefighters and injured a third but didn’t result in any injuries on the aircraft, police hauled the two pilots off to jail where they were held for almost two days. The union says the action violated all manner of protocols and conventions regarding accident investigations. “In no circumstances is it appropriate to question the flight crew of LATAM 2213 in the immediate aftermath of any accident or incident until they have been professionally evaluated by qualified medical personnel,” the union said in a statement. “The evaluation is to help determine their mental and physical fitness to contribute accurate information to investigators.”

The accident happened Friday morning and the pilots were in the local jug until Saturday night. It’s not clear if they are still technically under arrest or investigation. The pilots were at the controls of the airliner as it barreled down the runway at Jorge Chavez International Airport. They were approaching V1 at a taxiway intersection when a firetruck taking part in a drill pulled onto the runway and hit the right landing gear and engine on the aircraft. The plane’s fuel tank was breached and caught fire but other firefighters behind the one that hit the plane quickly brought it under control. The firetrucks were testing response times to a new runway that will open in January and it has been alleged they did not have clearance to enter the runway.

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.

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  1. I’m not a legal expert of Peruvian law. In Venezuela if there is a death like this the pilots would be arrested until cleared. It’s just the way it is.

    In the 90s an American CEO of a Venezuelan telco was jailed after an employee digging fiber optic with a Ditchwitch hit a giant gas pipeline along a stretch of highway killing dozens of people.

    • That makes sense given the origins of the legal systems in those South American countries. It’s contrary to the best known ways of managing aviation safety but I wish more CEOs in the US experienced swift consequences for the actions of their organizations.

  2. Mexico has some similar laws. A few years back some students at the University where I was a ME professor (not my students but I knew them), tried to drive to Mexico City for a robotics competition after working too late on their machine. Anyway on the way in Mexico, the driver drifted off the road, over corrected and rolled the vehicle. One passenger suffered a broken collar bone and other injuries so the driver went to jail until the passenger could vouch for the driver and have him released. They also had to pay $1000 for knocking down a highway sign.

    Anyway, unless the tower messed up, which is a possibility, only one party should have had permission to be on the runway.

    • If the cause of the accident is deemd to be the fire truck driver for failing to hesitate and look down the runway, then I would argue that the vehicle causing injury or death was the fire truck, not the plane. (It’s an argument that could be made.)

      • I don’t have much doubt that will be the result. The trucks were apparently cleared to turn onto a taxiway but the lead vehicle continued on to the active runway, possibly through warning markers.

  3. Many Central & South American nations have similar laws. As a matter of common sense, the laws address possible flight risks and an ability to conduct an investigation with parties involved present. Useful for their justice systems but not necessarily the right thing to do.

  4. FYI, all South American countries operate under the Napoleonic Laws, you are guilty until proven innocent.
    The USA, is one of the very few nations, that I know of, where there is the rule of law and you are innocent until proven guilty.
    No wonder people want to live here.