Russian Airline Tragedy: Malfunction, Human Error, Weather-Related, Midair Collision or Sabotage?
Shortly after takeoff on Sunday, Domodedovo air traffic control lost contact with Saratov Airlines’ An-148 flight 703, bound for Orsk on the Russia/Kazakhstan border from Moscow.
All 65 passengers and six crew members were killed, including three children and three foreign nationals – reportedly citizens of Switzerland, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan.
Valery Gubanov was an experienced pilot with around 5,000 flight hours. A large-scale search and rescue operation began Sunday after the crash – wreckage and body parts reportedly scattered over a wide area.
It’s too soon to know what caused the tragedy. Two flight recorders were recovered, their information crucial to determine what happened.
According to Russia’s Investigative Committee, the pilot reported no technical failures, no mayday call sent in flight. Airline spokeswoman Elena Voronova said aircraft maintenance fully conformed to proper operating standards.
During its ascent, the aircraft reached around 6,500 feet, then abruptly dropped nearly 1,000 feet, regained its stability briefly before dropping off radar contact.
On Monday, Tass said the plane didn’t break up in midair. It exploded on impact with the ground, citing Investigative Committee spokeswoman Svetlana Petrenko.
She explained “information from the flight recorders will enable experts of the IAC (Interstate Aviation Committee) to reconstruct the flight in detail and determine the cause of the crash,” adding:
“(D)uring the course of the preliminary investigation, all versions will be looked into, including the work to investigate the airline’s activity, the technical condition of the plane and the pilots’ professional level, as well as facts about the required training underwent.”
“(I)nvestigators have obtained fuel samples, the files of radio exchanges between flight controllers and the plane’s commander, the files of the system tracking the airliner on the ground and in the air, along with the radar’s electronic data on the plane’s flight.”
Flight recorders were severely damaged, decoding them still believed possible.
According to Tass, “(a) criminal case is being pursued under Article 263.3 of the Russian Criminal Code (violation of security requirements while using aircraft, resulting in the death of two and more persons through negligence).”
Was a bomb or something else responsible for the plane’s explosion on impact with the ground? Investigators will be looking into the possibility.
If suspicious fragments or other disturbing evidence is found, sabotage would have caused the disaster.
So far, it’s unknown why it occurred. What downed the aircraft will be known once forensic analysis is completed.
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