A spokesperson for West Caribbean Airways said on Tuesday the plane that crashed in Venezuela, killing all 160 people aboard, had its tail cone drop off last month during a flight but was later repaired.
John Ospina, spokesperson for the Medellin-based airline, said the tail-cone incident involving the McDonnell Douglas MD-82 plane happened in early July while the plane was headed to an airport in Colombia's coffee-growing region. Ospina said the plane landed safely on that flight to Pereira, adding that the pilots were not even aware they had lost the tail cone until after they landed, according to News24.
Ospina said the same plane also underwent several hours of repairs while passengers waited to board a domestic flight about two weeks ago. He said he did not know the nature of that problem.
Ospina, in a telephone interview from West Caribbean's headquarters in Medellin, Colombia, said the tail cone's function is to improve fuel efficiency and aerodynamics and was in no way related to any problems that caused Tuesday's crash.
The plane passed all safety inspections Monday night in Colombia before heading to Panama to begin Tuesday's ill-fated flight, Ospina said.
Carlos Eduardo Montealegre, acting director of Colombia's civil aviation authority, also said West Caribbean met all required safety checks before the plane took off from Colombia on Monday night.
"Any planes that take off must fulfill all regulations in terms of the technical aspects," Montealegre said. "That plane fulfilled these technical specifications."
The pilot reported engine problems before went down in Venezuela on Tuesday on the flight from Panama to Martinique.
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