QCOSTARICA – An American Airlines plane was denied landing on Saturday night at the Liberia airport, in Guanacaste, due to an alleged “communication failure” between air traffic controllers.
The director of Civil Aviation, Álvaro Vargas, said that the aircraft whose flight originated in Dallas, Texas (US) and bound for El Salvador, was unable to land in that country due to bad weather and, after presenting a “fuel problem”, requested an emergency landing at Daniel Oduber Quirós airport (LIR), around 11:50 pm.
Vargas indicated that since the Liberia airport closes at midnight, it denied landing. In addition, it assured that the Costa Rican air traffic controller was not made aware that the aircraft had an emergency.
“We received a communication on Saturday at 11:53 pm where we are told by the Center for Air Traffic Control CENAMER, covering the entire Central American FIR, above 20,000 feet, that the American plane is requesting permission to land in Liberia.
The controller tells his CENAMER counterpart that Liberia is closed and Santamaría (San Jose airport – SJO) is available.
“We were never told by CENAMER control that the aircraft had an emergency, that information was not obtained until today, Monday,” said Vargas.
While the CENAMER is in charge of the upper airspace, below the 20,000 feet altitude it is the air traffic controllers of each country.
According to the director of Civil Aviation, in the end, the plane managed to land at La Aurora International Airport (GUA), in Guatemala City.
In addition, he indicated that he does not know why the pilot requested to land in Costa Rica, but that he believes it was because the Liberia airport “is at sea level, which gives the aircraft better performance.”
Through a press release, the Dirección de Aviación Civil stated that “the actions of the Liberia Control Center personnel were correct.”
“On the reasons why the information was managed in this way by the Cenamer Control Center, we cannot pronounce ourselves, since the investigation of the event corresponds to the authorities of that organization and is ongoing, the same as the Programa de Seguridad Operacional del Estado de Costa Rica (Security Program Operational of the State of Costa Rica) will participate as an observer, to know the recommendations that are generated in search of generating mitigation measures that reduce the probability that an equal or similar event like this will be repeated.
“Additionally, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation of Costa Rica states that, if we had learned of the emergency condition of the flight, the Daniel Oduber Quirós Airport would have remained open, even after midnight, as long as necessary, to give the aircraft all the necessary assistance, and this will be done in similar cases like this one,” says the statement.
Rafael Sánchez, American Airlines manager for Central America, could not comment, affirming that he did not know about the situation and that he was going to request the information on the case.