Judge to Question Spanair Mechanics in Plane Crash

A Spanish judge will question three mechanics on suspicion of manslaughter in the Spanair plane crash that killed 154 people at Madrid's airport in August, a court spokesman said Thursday.

Judge Juan Javier Perez of Madrid's Superior Court subpoenaed two mechanics who checked the plane before it crashed on takeoff, as well as the Spanair maintenance chief at Madrid's Barajas airport, the spokesman told The Associated Press anonymously due to court regulations.

None of the mechanics has been charged.

Click here for photos.

Perez's investigation is to determine whether any crime may have been committed and contributed to the Aug. 20 crash.

The first official report — drawn up by a commission looking into the cause of the crash — said investigators were focusing on a problem with the plane's wing flaps and the failure of a cockpit alarm to sound, but that no conclusions had been reached about the cause of the crash.

The MD-82 plane abandoned a first attempt at takeoff because of a faulty air temperature gauge outside the cockpit.

Spanair described the gauge problem as a minor glitch that was resolved by turning off the gauge because it was not essential equipment. The plane crashed about an hour later during its second takeoff attempt.

Spanair had no immediate comment on the judge's decision to subpoena the mechanics.

The crash was Spain's worst air disaster in 25 years. Only 18 people survived.

Judge Perez said that, based on the official report, it appeared the mechanics failed to notice that the cockpit alarm to warn pilots that the flaps were not in their correct position was not functioning, the court spokesman said.

The judge added that the air temperature gauge problem may have been a consequence, or a symptom, of a multifunctional breakdown or fault.

He also ordered the creation of a parallel investigative commission comprised of two engineers, two pilots and two mechanics to look into the crash. The judge said the reason for this second commission was that the government-ordered one may take a long time in reaching conclusions.

Earlier this month, Judge Perez said the crew of the MD-82 reported a problem with the wing slats two days before the accident, and that they were repaired at the time.

Flaps and slats are moveable panels on the trailing and leading edges of a plane's wings, respectively, that help with takeoff.

Click here for photos of the crash scene.

Click here to watch the video at ElPais.com.