BOGOTA, Colombia – A look at how fuel may have played a role in the crash of a charter flight approaching Medellin, Colombia that killed all but six of the 77 people on board.
— Pre-flight: Authorities have not released the flight plan for the jet operated by LaMia, a Bolivia-based charter company, but aviation experts say international regulations require enough extra fuel to fly at least 30 to 45 minutes to divert to another airport in case of emergency. Pilots also calculate the actual consumption of fuel during the flight and rarely get into a position that requires them to use reserves. The Avro RJ85 jet's maximum range was 2,965 kilometers (1,600 nautical miles). That is just under the distance between Medellin and Santa Cruz, Bolivia, from the where the flight departed at almost full capacity.
— Flight and approach: The RJ85 holds about 21,000 pounds of fuel. It burns fuel at a rate of 4,500-5,000 pounds per hour. The flight had been in the air for about 4 hours and 20 minutes when air traffic controllers in Medellin put it into a holding pattern because another flight had reported a suspected fuel leak and was given priority.
— Crash: The LaMia jet appeared to run out of fuel before crashing, though it is not known whether it was because they did not have enough for the flight, a leak or for some other reason. In the final minutes of the doomed flight, the pilot of the jet can be heard repeatedly requesting permission to land due to a lack of fuel and a "total electric failure," according to a leaked recording. The recordings, obtained by several Colombian media outlets, seemed to confirm the accounts of a surviving flight attendant and a pilot flying nearby who overheard the frantic pleas from the doomed airliner. These, along with the lack of an explosion upon impact, point to a rare case of fuel running out as a cause of the crash of the airliner, which experts say was flying at its maximum range.