Russia yesterday sought answers for the latest deadly plane crash to raise concern about the safety of its civil aviation, with investigators focusing on a fault with the 23-year-old plane or pilot error as the likely cause for the disaster that killed 50.
The Tatarstan Airlines Boeing 737-500 crashed on landing at the airport in the Volga city of Kazan after a flight from Moscow Domodedovo Airport on Sunday night, killing all 44 passengers and six crew on board, the Russian Ministry of Emergency Situations said.
“The main versions of what happened are an error in piloting and technical factors, including a technical failure,” the head of the transport Investigative Committee for the Volga region Alexander Poltinin was quoted as saying by Russian news agencies.
He confirmed that that the crash occurred while the aircraft was making a second attempt at landing and said the investigation would have to consider why the pilot had not managed to land the first time.
The disaster claimed the lives of the son of the leader of the Tatarstan region, Irek Minnikhanov, and the head of Russia’s FSB security service in Tatarstan, Alexander Antonov.
Also among the dead was a Briton, Donna Carolina Bull, 53, and a Ukrainian, the emergencies ministry said. The rest of the victims are all believed to be Russian citizens.
The plane owned by Tatarstan Airlines, the regional carrier of the Tatarstan region, was 23 years old and had had seven different owners during its life, Russian media and specialised Web sites said.
It went into service in 1990 and was used first by now defunct French airline Euralair Horizons and then by Air France. Before being acquired by Tatarstan Airlines it was operated by Uganda Airlines, Brazil’s Rio Sul, Romania’s Blue Air and then Bulgaria Air.
In 2001 while being operated by Rio Sul it suffered a serious accident on landing in Brazil which, although it claimed no lives, meant that the plane had to endure serious repairs.
There had been no technical problems reported with the plane prior to the flight and regular maintenance and troubleshooting between flights had been conducted, the news agency Interfax cited the airlines’ press office as saying
The plane exploded in a ball of fire upon hitting the runway.
Pictures showed charred wreckage scattered over a wide area, apparently taken after firefighters had extinguished the fire. Russian television broadcast a blurred video showing a bright flash of light. It also showed a photograph of the plane’s gaping fuselage with firefighters in the foreground.
Local reports said the Boeing lost altitude quickly and its fuel tank exploded on impact.
Additional reporting by Reuters