The Bolivian civil aviation authority suspended the operating licence of LaMia airlines — Línea Aérea Mérida Internacional de Aviación — following the deadly Colombia plane crash on Monday (28 November). The crash killed 71 of the 77 people on board the flight, including players and team officials of Brazil's Chapecoense football club, and about 21 journalists.
The LaMia flight 2933 was the airline service's only operational plane and had been part-owned by the pilot, the BBC reported. It is suspected that the plane crashed after it ran out of fuel while trying to land.
The Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia-headquartered charter plane service specialised in transporting football teams. It began its operations in 2015 and operated three planes, two of which are reportedly undergoing repair.
The tragic accident took place when the plane was transporting the Chapecoense football team and others for the finals of the Copa Sudamericana in Medellín, Colombia against Colombian team Atlético Nacional.
The two black boxes of the British-made BAE 146 Avro RJ85 aircraft were recently recovered. Bolivian authorities suspect fuel shortage and electric failure as the cause of the crash. "Having been able to do an inspection of all of the remains and parts of the plane, we can affirm clearly that the aircraft did not have fuel at the moment of impact," Colombian aviation chief Alfredo Bocanegra was quoted by the BBC as saying.
Another aviation official Freddy Bonilla reportedly said that as per regulations, all aircraft must have 30 minutes of fuel in reserve to reach an alternative airport in case of emergency, but "in this case the plane did not have" it.
"The engines are the electrical source... but without fuel, obviously the electrical source would have been completely lost," he added.
The fuel exhaustion theory emerged after the pilot of the plane, Miguel Quiroga, was heard warning of a "total electric failure" and "lack of fuel" in a leaked recording. He is also heard saying at the end of the tape that he is flying at an altitude of 9,000 feet.
It has also emerged that the plane was scheduled to refuel at Cobija on the border between Brazil and Bolivia, but it avoided the stoppage to stay on schedule following a delayed departure. The plane reportedly did not operate in the night and thus, avoided stopping for refueling even in Bogota and headed straight for the destination.