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Crew not to blame for Hercules crash: report

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Crew not to blame for Hercules crash: report
Hercules - Morten Holm Scanpix
11:51 CEST+02:00
A new report into the crash last year of a Norwegian military plane into Sweden's highest mountain has blamed poor systems and procedures at the air authorities of both countries rather than the crew or equipment.
The final accident report from Sweden's Accident Investigation Board spread the blame equally between Sweden's Air Traffic Control and the Norwegian Air Force, saying that inexperienced personnel at the former had failed to alert the plane to the danger it was in, while the latter had inadequate flight planning procedures.
 
"It is these deficiencies and not individual errors that explain the accident," Hans Ytterberg, the director general of the Swedish government's Accident Investigation Board, said. "To summarize, there were failings and weaknesses among both the Norwegian and Swedish air forces."
 
The Norwegian Hercules cargo plane left its base at Evenes for Kiruna on Thursday 15 March, 2012, on a mission to fetch personnel and materials, but disappeared on route.
 
Two days later, wreckage, as well as body parts from the five deceased crew members, was found on the east and west sides of the Kebnekaise Massive at an altitude of more than 1,500 metres.
 
Investigators found that the Norwegian air force lacked procedures for planning and following up the flight, and also put too much faith in Swedish air traffic controllers.
 
As a result, the crew was never made aware that the information they received from air traffic controllers meant that they plane wasn't maintaining sufficient distance from the ground.
 
Information from air traffic controllers also didn't follow procedures because they "didn't have enough experience and knowledge to be able to lead air traffic from the west into Kiruna airport in a safe way under prevailing conditions" the commission wrote.
 
According to the report, air traffic controllers in Stockholm and Kiruna instructed the Norwegian pilot to lower the plane's altitude below the height of the mountain, even though they were unaware of the plane's exact location. 
 
The pilot and crew of the plane, meanwhile, were over-reliant on the air traffic controllers, with the Norwegian Air Force having no procedures in place requiring crew to assess the minimum safe flight level for a given terrain before departure. 
 
Lead accident investigator Agne Widholm, who led the accident probe, said that an over-reliance on technical systems may have also played a role in the accident.
 
The fact that the area where the crash occurred isn't covered by radar also complicated air traffic controllers' work.
 
Information from air traffic controllers also didn't follow procedures because they "didn't have enough experience and knowledge to be able to lead air traffic from the west into Kiruna airport in a safe way under prevailing conditions" the commission wrote.
 
Both the Swedish and Norwegian investigators are in agreement about the findings of the report, which includes 22 recommendations for the Norwegian air force, the Swedish Transit Authority (Transportstyrelsen), the National Police Board (Rikspolisstyrelsen), and the Civil Contingencies Agency (Myndigheten för samhällsskydd och beredskap, MSB).
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