Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Russian authorities continue looking for bodies in plane wreckage

The president of the Russian republic of Tatarstan declared Monday a day of mourning as crews continued to look for bodies in the wreckage of a Russian jetliner that crashed on landing a day earlier.

All 50 people on board, including the son of Tatarstan regional President Rustam Miinikhanov, died in the crash in Tatarstan’s capital, Kazan.

The victims ranged in age from 13 to 87, according to a list of names the airline posted on its website. Among them was Lt. Gen. Alexander Antonov, the regional chief of Russia’s Federal Security Service, and a British national.

“Not all the bodies have been located,” Deputy Emergency Situation Situations Minister Vladimir Stepanov told local media Monday morning. “The main work will be completed today.”

Officials do not know why Tatarstan Airlines flight 363 crashed. Part of the answer may lie in the Boeing 737′s flight and data recorders. Russian officials say they’ve found the flight recorders, the state-run RIA Novosti news agency said Monday. Russia’s Interstate Commerce Committee reports that the recorders’ container was seriously damaged, the news agency said, but they’ve been sent to Moscow and could provide some information by Tuesday.

The plane, carrying 44 passengers and a crew of six, took off from Moscow’s Domodedovo International Airport, about 700 kilometers (435 miles) west of Kazan.

The pilot tried two times to land before the plane slammed nose-first into the ground, officials told local media.

The jet was 23 years old and had been in service with at least eight airlines, including Air France, Uganda Airlines and Bulgaria Air, according to aviation industry websites.

In a November 2012 flight, it was forced to cut short a flight to Moscow and return to Kazan after losing cabin pressure, according to the website AeroInside.

Security cam footage showing a Tatarstan Airlines Boeing 737’s nosedive has been released. The reason for the crash that claimed 50 lives remains unknown, although technical malfunction and pilot error are the leading theories.

The footage shows just how futile any efforts at rectifying the situation must have been in those final moments. The plane is seen to be falling vertically out of the sky before exploding on the runway.

“We will not land” were the last words that chief pilot Rustem Salikhov told an air traffic controller at the airport.

"The plane simply fell. It went vertically into the ground. After the plane hit the ground there was an explosion," transport minister Maksim Sokolov said.

As experts examined the crash scene, they reportedly confirmed that the airliner began spinning before hitting the ground. They believe the fuselage is buried four meters underground.

“Practically half of the aircraft was in the ground,” Life News quoted a source as saying.

This complicates the recovery operation, as the bodies of the two pilots and those who traveled in business class are underground, along with half the cabin.

Parts of the fuselage, which is now in tatters, were scattered within a 2.5 kilometer radius. The plane's back was completely ruined.

One witness told RT earlier that she was “on board that same Tatarstan airplane from Kazan to Moscow earlier on Sunday afternoon. The flight itself went quite smoothly but, just before the landing, the plane started vibrating fiercely. Initially I thought it was the weather - but when we got out of the plane, it turned out the weather was quite nice. The plane was shaking; it was dragged from side to side. We landed on our first attempt, but it was a really bad landing and I felt like the plane was going to roll off the runway.”

Despite all this, the latest checkup - two days before departure - had found nothing wrong.

Supporting the view that all five factors discussed could have caused the fatal crash – pilot error, weather conditions, poor fuel, badly observed safety measures, and the plane’s disrepair – Michael Weiss, a civil aviation consultant who used to fly the same type of plane that crashed in Kazan, told RT that in the majority of cases, it is always a combination of factors.

“All of these factors are going to be looked at...there are going to be so many things looked at, keeping in mind that accidents generally don’t happen from a single event," he said.

Russia has tried to improve its checkered reputation for air safety in recent years.

In 2011, then-President Dmitry Medvedev grounded two classes of Soviet-era aircraft after a pair of crashes that killed more than 90 people, including a charter plane crash that killed an entire professional hockey team.

Medvedev said Russia would have to upgrade its aircraft fleet, step up safety standards and radically cut the number of airlines

Tuesday 19 November 2013




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