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<email@example.com> Date: 22 November 2006 Re: David Robinson's, "A Case of Assassination? President Samora Machel and the Plane Crash at Mbuzini." The problem with conspiracy theories is that their proponents tend to disregard facts, relying instead on hearsay and speculation like Deborah Patta's claim that the black box of Samora Machel's aircraft had been tampered with, or Paul Fauvet's assertion that "the original plan of Machel's assassins was to lure the plane over Swaziland where it was to be shot down by a missile and attributed to Renamo." One cannot simply brush aside the hard facts gathered by South African, Mozambican and Soviet investigators accredited to the Commission of Inquiry into the Mbuzini accident, which showed beyond reasonable doubt that the plane crash was due to human error. Whoever wished to cause the crash by means of a decoy beacon (VOR) would have seen their plan doomed to failure from the start: To be able to land, the Tupolev had to comply with other navigational procedures, including intercepting the ILS's localizer and then its glide slope, while adhering to specific altitudes that are mandatory for the Maputo airport. Here, the VOR plays no role. Besides, during the standard cross- checking preceding approach and landing an attentive crew would have inevitably detected any discrepancies in their instruments'readings. Evidence shows that after the premature turn to the right, Machel's plane was not following the VOR signal. It was instead being navigated on the Doppler, an instrument that does not rely on any ground station. Although the aircraft's automatic pilot had been engaged, it could have flown in VOR mode. The navigator, however, had failed--among other things--to set the Course Direction Indicator (CDI) on the Maputo heading. The tripartite investigation found that the aircraft's CDI was still set on the Lusaka-Harare heading, thereby preventing it from being flown in VOR mode with the automatic pilot engaged. The theory of the decoy beacon is so illogical that the Soviets even tried to fabricate evidence to prove its existence. They wanted Sa Marques, the captain of the Mozambique Airlines (LAM) Boeing-737 who was flying from Beira to Maputo at the time of the Mbuzini crash, to state that his aircraft had veered off course as a result of the so-called spurious beacon. Captain Sa Marques refused to do this, stressing to the panel of Soviet investigators that his aircraft was well on course, following the Maputo VOR signal, both during the inbound flight and also when he was ordered by the Maputo Air Traffic Control to return to Beira. Nonetheless, the Soviet Union went ahead and lied to the commission of inquiry, stating that the "board navigation equipment [of Marques' aircraft had] picked up the beacon VOR on the frequency of 112,7 mHg unusually early at the distance of 190 nautical miles," adding: "In order to secure the interaction between the board and ground equipment at such a distance, required power of a VOR transmitter must exceed 200 W. In the meantime, a disposable power of the Maputo VOR transmitter does not exceed 50 W. Thus, the board equipment of the Boeing 737-200 C9BAA aircraft of LAM airline was also interacting with the false beacon VOR which was working on the frequency of 112,7 MGh and had a higher signal level than the VOR Maputo." In an interview in Lisbon on 2 October 2006, Captain Marques told me that he had never said such a thing. He reiterated that the Maputo VOR signal could in fact be picked up at more than 200 nautical miles. Similarly, LAM Captain Franklin Bastos, in an interview with Alvaro Belo Marques, the author of "Quem Matou Samora Machel?" [Ulmeiro, Portugal 1987, p. 113], stated that the Maputo VOR signal could be "received at 200 miles". The Maputo Air Traffic Control had instructed the Tupolev crew that upon reaching 3,000 feet they were to remain at that altitude. The crew was also told that they could only descend below 3,000 feet if they had the runway lights in sight. They disregarded this and continued with the descent without visual contact with the Maputo runway. As the GPWS (Ground Proximity Warning System) was activated, and heard for 32 seconds inside the cockpit, the crew disregarded it as well and continued with the descent, ultimately causing the plane to crash. The Tupolev-134 Flight Manual is quite clear about the procedure a crew should follow when the GPWS system is activated: "Pull the aircraft out to climb with a decisive moment of 1,25 -- 1,7 acceleration and maintain the aeroplane in climb for 20 -- 30 seconds with the engines operating at take-off power." A contributing factor to the plane crash was insufficient fuel. The crew had failed to refuel the plane for the return flight. During descent, the fuel warning light lit twice, telling the crew that all that was left in the tanks was the reserve fuel. The plane would not have been able to reach Beira, the alternative airport selected by the navigator in the event of a landing at Maputo not being possible. Under pressure, the crew realized that they had to land in Maputo at all costs, hence their blatant disregard for standard navigational procedure mentioned earlier. The flight engineer, who survived the crash, could have shed light on the decision taken by the Tupolev's captain not to refuel the plane. The Soviet Union, however, did not allow him to appear before the commission of inquiry.