Sunday, 20 March 2016

Flydubai plane crash

Flydubai said on Saturday that it will organise a "programme of hardship payments" of $20,000 to each victims' families to address their immediate financial needs.

The Dubai airliner with 62 people on board nosedived and exploded in a giant fireball early on Saturday while trying to land in strong winds in the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don, killing all aboard, officials said.

"At present, our priority is to identify and contact the families of those lost in today’s tragic accident and provide immediate support to those affected. flydubai will additionally organise a programme of hardship payments to the families amounting to $20,000 per passenger, in accordance with our Conditions of Carriage, with the aim of addressing immediate financial needs," a flydubai spokesperson said.

Flydubai to confirm passengers' names

Flydubai will release the names of those on board fatal flight FZ981 after it has contacted the families of the 62 passengers and crew members on board, the airline said late on Saturday.

In an emailed statement, the airline said: “Our priority is the extension of all possible care and respect to the families of the passengers and crew of flight FZ981.”

“We are currently in the process of contacting all families that have lost loved ones as a result of this tragic accident. It is a process that will take a little time but as a mark of respect to the families of the bereaved, we want to make every effort to inform them directly prior to releasing the full passenger manifest.”

A list of names of all 55 passengers on board, including 4 children, was released on Saturday morning by Russia’s Emergency Situations Ministry. Flydubai has said the passengers were 44 Russians, 8 Ukrainians, 2 Indians and 1 Uzbekistani. A full list of names and some nationalities of crew members was also released by the ministry.

The Russian Embassy in the United Arab Emirates, flydubai and the UAE’s General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) later confirmed the nationalities of crew members, including pilots. They were 2 Spaniards and one each from Russia, Columbia, Cyprus and Kyrgyzstan.

Flight recorders recovered

The flight data recorder and cockpit data recorder from the flydubai plane that crashed on Saturday have been recovered by the local accident investigation team at the crash site in Russia, Flydubai confirmed in a Facebook post.

Russia's Emergencies Ministry said most of the passengers were Russians, and seven crew members of various nationalities. Flydubai confirmed that there were no survivors and said four children were among those killed.

The powerful explosion pulverised the plane but investigators quickly recovered both flight recorders. The cause of the crash wasn't immediately known, but officials and experts pointed at a sudden gust of wind as a possible reason. Related story: Flydubai sees first tragedy

"Our primary concern is for the families of the passengers and crew who were on board. Everyone at flydubai is in deep shock and our hearts go out to the families and friends of those involved," said CEO Gaith Al Gaith. The airline said it was in the process of contacting all families of the victims. Related story: Russian consulate in UAE to fast-track visa, consular services to family of victims

No distress call made

Al Gaith said that the pilots, who were from Cyprus and Spain, hadn't issued any distress signal before the crash. They had 5,965 and 5,769 hours of flying time respectively, making them "quite experienced," Al Gaith added. The cabin crew included two Russians and citizens of Seychelles, Colombia and Kyrgyzstan.

“I can confirm a far as I can see there was no distress call,” Al Ghaith said at a press conference in Dubai on Saturday.

The aircraft, a five year old Boeing 737-800, went through a heavy maintenance check just two months ago, Al Ghaith also said. The flight departed Dubai International at 12:20am on Saturday. The accident occured at 4:50am Dubai time.

There were 55 passengers and 7 crew members on board. The nationalities of the passengers have been confirmed as 44 Russians, 8 Ukrainians, 2 Indians and 1 Uzbekistani. Of the passengers 33 were women, 18 were men and 4 were children.

The United Arab Emirates’ General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) said there were 2 female and 5 male crew members. Their nationalities were 1 Cypriot, 2 Spaniard, 1 Russian, 1 Seychellois, and 1 Columbian and 1 Kyrgyzstani. It is understood the pilots were Cypriot and Spanish.

The GCAA has sent a four-person team to Moscow who will then travel onwards to Rostov-on-Don to assist Russian authorities in the investigation into the incident, GCAA assistant director general for air accident investigation Ismail Al Hosani said.

Flydubai has sent an emergency response team directly to the site, Al Ghaith said. The flydubai chief declined to comment on what might have caused the accident, telling reporters it was too early to speculate.

“We cannot judge right now what has happened until our team get the full information about the incident,” he said. Al Hosani said the GCAA isn’t ruling anything out.

Strong winds eyed as cause of crash

Rostov regional Governor Vasily Golubev said that "by all appearances, the cause of the air crash was the strongly gusting wind, approaching a hurricane level."

According to the weather data reported by Russian state television, winds at ground level weren't dangerously strong at the moment of the crash, but at an altitude of 500 metres (1,640 feet) and higher they reached a near-hurricane speed of around 30 meters per second (67 miles per hour).

Ian Petchenik, a spokesman for the flight-tracking website Flightradar24, told The Associated Press that the plane missed its approach then entered a holding pattern.

According to Flightradar24, the plane circled for about two hours before making another landing attempt. It said a Russian Aeroflot plane scheduled to land around the same time made three landing attempts but then diverted to another airport.

According to its data, the plane began climbing again after a go-around when it suddenly started to fall with vertical speed of up to 6,400 metres per minute (21,000 feet/min).

The closed-circuit TV footage showed the plane going down in a steep angle and exploding.

Al Gaith said the plane attempted to land in line with established procedures.

"As far as we know the airport was open and we were good to operate," he said, adding that they couldn't have landed without air traffic controllers' permission.

Al Gaith said the pilots hadn't issued any distress call and hadn't attempted to divert to an alternate airport.

"It was an uncontrollable fall," said Sergei Kruglikov, a veteran Russian pilot, said on Russian state television. He said that a sudden change in wind speed and direction could have caused the wings to abruptly lose their lifting power.

He said that the pilots would have understood seconds before the crash that they were going to die, but "passengers and the cabin crew likely didn't realise they were facing imminent death."

Pilot Vitaly Sokolovsky told Rossiya 24 television that a sudden gust of wind could be particularly dangerous at low altitude while the plane was flying slowly at low power and the pilot was throttling up the engines to make another run.

President Vladimir Putin offered his condolences to the victims' families and top Russian Cabinet officials flew to the crash site to oversee the investigation.

In a statement expressing "shock and grief," Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades confirmed that the pilot was a Cypriot national, Aristos Socratous from Limassol.

Officials said the plane and bodies of the victims were torn into small pieces by the powerful blast, making identification difficult. Investigators said they were working on the plane's cockpit conversation recorder and another one recording parameters of the flight.

The pilots on board have flown a combined 10,000 hours. They were experienced pilots. There were 2 Russian crew members on board.

One of the two flight data recorders was found at the crash site, and the search for the second one is ongoing, the RIA Novosti news agency reported.

Of the seven crew members, one was from Cyprus, two from Spain, one Colombian, one Seychelles and one from Kyrgyz Republic, said Alexander Efimov. Russian ambassador to the UAE. It was earlier reported that one of the crew member was Russian.

Boeing ready to provide assistance

US plane maker Boeing says it is ready to provide assistance to the investigation into the fatal flydubai crash in Russia.

“Boeing’s thoughts and prayers are with those on board flydubai flight FZ981 and their families and friends. Boeing stands ready to provide technical assistance upon the request of government agencies conducting the investigation,” Boeing said in a statement on its website.

Sunday 20 March 2015

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