Spanish Plane Plagued By Earlier Problems

The tail of the Spanair jet that crashed on take off at Madrid airport is seen on Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2008. A Spanair airliner bound for the Canary Islands at the height of the vacation season crashed, burned and broke into pieces Wednesday while trying to take off from Madrid, killing 149 people on board, officials said. There were only 26 survivors in the mid-afternoon crash, said Spanish Development Minister Magdalena Alvarez, whose department is in charge of civil aviation. It was Spain's most deadly air disaster in more than 20 years. (AP Photo/EFE) ** LATAM, CARIBBEAN AND SPAIN OUT **
AP Photo/EFE
The Spanair plane that crashed last week in Madrid, killing 154 people, had landing gear trouble a month ago on a flight from Spain to Denmark and was forced to abandon a first attempt at takeoff, the company acknowledged Wednesday.

On July 26, the MD-82 was to take 167 passengers and crew from Palma on the Mediterranean island of Mallorca to Copenhagen.

But as it taxied to the runway the pilot heard a "louder than usual noise" coming from the front landing gear and returned to the gate, a Spanair official said.

Mechanics worked on the problem for about half an hour, and after taking on more fuel to make up for the fuel burned during the repair work, the plane took off without incident, 44 minutes late, the Spanair official said.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because company rules bar her name from being published.

The incident was first reported Tuesday by a Danish newspaper, Ekstra-Bladet, and carried Wednesday by Spanish papers.

Spanair did not make the incident public until these newspapers asked about it because the company did not deem the case serious enough to mention, the official said. She said she did not know the exact problem with the landing gear.

This particular plane passed 36 inspections this year, she said.

Only 18 people survived the Aug. 20 Spanair takeoff crash on a flight from Madrid to the Canary Islands.

One of the survivors said Tuesday the aircraft lacked power during takeoff, corroborating other survivor accounts of what went wrong.

"I guess I did realize that when the plane was going to take off, perhaps it was not going so fast," Beatriz Reyes Ojeda, 41, told a jam-packed news conference shortly after being released from the hospital.

During takeoff, Reyes Ojeda said, the plane's right wing dipped abruptly. "And I said to myself, something is going on here."

"I grabbed the seat. I noticed a bump. My stomach was rising and falling and then I don't remember anything else," she said.

The plane struggled to get airborne, hit the ground tail-first, skidded and bounced three times over more than a kilometer before disintegrating and burning, the head of the Spanish commission overseeing the investigation, Francisco Soto, said Tuesday night.

Soto said it was too early to establish the cause of the crash but a preliminary report should be out in a month.

In this case, too, the plane abandoned a first takeoff attempt while taxiing. Spanair has said this was because of a minor problem with an air temperature gauge near the cockpit. It rules out any link between this malfunction and Spain's worst air disaster in 25 years.