Pilot Error In Argentina Crash

An investigation board has blamed crew error for Argentina's deadliest plane accident, in which a passenger jet caught fire after failing to take off.

The ruling Tuesday by the Argentine air force board said the crew could have acted to prevent the Aug. 31 crash in Buenos Aires in which 72 people, including the pilot and copilot, died.

"Obviously, the pilots did not do the right things," said Air Force Gen. Horacio Viola, head of the board.

The Boeing 737-200, belonging to the Argentine airline LAPA, had barely risen off the tarmac when it bounced back to the ground, shattered the airport fence, crashed into a neighboring sports center and caught fire.

Viola's comments followed the disclosure of the cockpit black-box recording, which revealed that pilot Gustavo Weigel and copilot Luis Echeverry were slow to respond to a cockpit alarm that sounded 35 seconds before the crash. The information was provided by Federal Judge Gustavo Literas, who is conducting the investigation of the accident.

The plane's two black boxes are being studied by the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board.

Guillermo Alais, former president of the Argentine Association of Airline Pilots, told reporters Tuesday that the crew had a chance to act when the alarm went off, while the plane was still on the runway.

"At that moment," he said, "the pilot should have aborted takeoff."