Minister was wary of Falcon

Aviation experts and witnesses gave evidence yesterday on the second day of the trial of the pilot, co-pilot and eight Olympic Airways technicians allegedly responsible for a freak accident in a government jet over Romania in 1999 that resulted in the deaths of seven people. Alexander Fisher, one of the authors of a report for the public prosecutor, told the Athens court that in his opinion the pilot and co-pilot had not acted incorrectly as the Falcon suddenly plummeted and rose several times on its descent to Bucharest airport. He blamed bad maintanance, problems in the automatic pilot and a fault in the plane’s pitch-fill system. In the report, Fisher and Akrivos Tsolakis had mentioned human error as one of the causes of the accident, resulting in manslaughter and misdemeanor charges against the 10. Fisher yesterday referred to a number of omissions on the part of OA regarding the use and maintenance of the Falcon aircraft’s automatic pilot system. He said the pilots had set the automatic pilot to descend from 40,000 feet to 5,000 feet but that Bucharest airport authorities had told them to level off at 15,000. When the pilots pulled at the controls, the faulty Arthur system resulted in a greater than normal rise and fall, Fisher said. One of the survivors, Maria Begliti, secretary to Deputy Foreign Minister Yiannos Kranidiotis, who died in the accident, said he had written a letter to OA after the plane presented problems on a trip to China. «He demanded apportioning of blame for the maintenance and for the problem that arose, but in the end he did not send the letter,» she said. Sophia Papadopoulou, whose diplomat brother was seriously injured on the flight, said she had heard Transport Minister Tassos Mandelis call OA senior executive Miltiades Tsangarakis a «murderer» for not «looking after the Falcon.»