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Airline President Dismisses Wing Fire As Cause of Peruvian Crash

March 4, 1996

LIMA, Peru (AP) _ The head of Faucett Airlines dismissed as speculation reports that a motor on its Boeing 737 caught fire before the plane crashed into an Andean hillside last week, killing all 123 people aboard.

The 28-year-old aircraft crashed five miles short of the airport at Arequipa, 465 miles southeast of Lima, on Thursday night.

``There was no fire in the motor,″ Faucett president Roberto Leigh said Sunday night in a television interview. ``Both motors were operational at the time of the accident. This has been determined by technicians.″

Early reports of the accident indicated another commercial airliner had seen the plane on fire before it crashed. Some witnesses on the ground also reported that they saw fire while the plane was in the air.

But Leigh said those reports were not correct.

He said an Aeroperu commercial flight was 80 miles behind the Faucett plane and could not have seen the doomed airliner before it went down.

The control tower at Arequipa ordered the Aeroperu pilot to fly over the area and the pilot saw fire, ``which must have been the already destroyed airplane,″ he said.

Peruvian lawmakers demanded an investigation into airline safety, and one questioned whether domestic airlines were buying planes that had already been decommissioned by other airlines because of their age.

Leigh, however, insisted the Faucett plane had been regularly maintained and said the age of the aircraft was not an issue.

The Faucett pilot had reported he could not see the airport runway lights and asked the tower to increase the illumination, Leigh said. The tower reported that lights were fully on, and nothing more was heard from the plane.

Authorities say the plane scraped the top of a hill, shot across a ravine and crashed into the side of another hill. Fog had reduced visibility at the airport at time of the accident.

Leigh said the pilot was on the right course, and the investigation into the cause of the accident has to examine why the plane’s altitude was so low.

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