Saturday, June 23, 2012

Air Class Metro CX-LAS Disappearance Update

The search for the aircraft missing after departing Montevideo's Carrasco International Airport (MVD) on the evening of Wednesday 06Jun12 continued in the days after its disappearance without a trace. 

Some plastic bags washed ashore near Carrasco and it was thought that maybe they were the type used by the airline to wrap cargo but this hypothesis was discarded when Air Class confirmed that the bags were of a different material than what they use.  Hopes were raised when long streaks of a fluid were spotted on the surface of the Rio de la Plata some six miles southwest of Isla de Flores, near where the aircraft is thought to have gone down.  Samples of the liquid were taken for testing to see if it was a petroleum-based or similar product, such as hydraulic fluid or the jet fuel used to power the Metro's turbine engines but the substance was too diluted to determine definitively what it was.   

On Saturday, 09Jun12, three days after the plane went missing, the Uruguayan Air Force performed a demonstration flight with a twin-engined turboprop similar to the Metro seeking to recreate its flight path to possibly gain insights on what happened.  The first objective was to determine if the radar used to track the Metro was working properly to make sure the trackings that it showed of the Metro's flight were accurate.  This exercise confirmed that the radar was functioning normally.  

Following the Metro's tracks, the air force plane made several abrupt moves emulating the final seconds that the Metro was on radar, first with a sharp left turn going out of its planned flight path, then back on to its routing, followed by a sharp right turn and another to the left before disappearing from the radar.  The air force plane traced this routing simulating the Metro's flight with the exception of some maneuvers that were so extreme that they could have endangered the air force crew.  Further analysis led to the conclusion that the Metro crew executed maneuvers that were unsafe but appeared to be in an attempt to recover from a critical flight situation.  The Metro disappeared from radar when it was at 2,400 ft. and is presumed to have taken 5-10 seconds to hit the surface of the water reinforcing the earlier assumption that it went down very near Isla de Flores, some 10-12 miles off the coast of Uruguay.

Another theory that was considered was the possibility of a hijack since no trace of the plane has been found.  One motivation for hijack would be drug dealers stealing a plane to use it for transporting drugs, especially because one such attempt took place at Montevideo's Melilla Airport in 2003.  However, reviews of security cameras at MVD in the two hours prior to the Metro's departure revealed no one boarding the plane except the flight crew.  

Also considered was the possibility that cargo of a hazardous nature might have been boarded, such as flammable or explosive materials, but a review of the freight manifests for the flight revealed little likelihood of "hazmat" making it onboard the Metro. 

As of this writing, it appears that the Metro crashed into the sea with the loss of both crewmembers, Captain Walter Rigo (63) and First Officer Martin Riva (34).  Both men became pilots because they loved to fly.  "Walter disappeared doing one of the things he most loved: flying." said his family members.  Martin's father, Julio Riva, said that his son had always wanted to fly.  He worked at different jobs but always pursued his desire to become a professional pilot until he was hired by DHL three months before the Metro's disappearance.  Martin commented that before being hired he paid to fly but now they were paying him to fly !  "He couldn't have been happier" commented the elder Riva.  

Assuming that both men perished in the aircraft's disappearance, may they both rest in peace.  

Sources:  El Pais (Uruguay), 09Jun12, 11Jun12, 12Jun12, 15Jun12

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