Investigation into cause of Russia plane crash underway

By UPI Staff   |   March 20, 2016 at 9:52 AM

ROSTOV-ON-DON, Russia, March 20 (UPI) -- Investigators have begun attempting to extract information from the black boxes of the FlyDubai jetliner that crashed in Russia Saturday, killiing all 62 people on board.

Russian investigators said the black boxes from the Boeing 737-800 were damaged in the Flight 981 crash in Rostov-on-Don during a repeated landing attempt under windy conditions at the city airport, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The Russian Interstate Aviation Committee, leading the investigation, said it is working with specialists from the United Arab Emirates and France to extract memory units used to store data. Those are the units that typically provide the strongest evidence in what caused the crash.

City authorities said bad weather conditions forced the pilot to attempt a second landing. The Russian Investigative Committee said it has opened a criminal probe considering "error by the plane's crew, technical malfunction on board, bad weather conditions and other factors" as possible reasons for the crash.

Flydubai CEO Ghaith Al Ghaith issued a statement Sunday saying the airline was focusing on two key priorities; "care for all those who have been affected by the accident and support for the investigating authorities as they work to identify the cause.

"To begin with, we are working to establish how we can most effectively provide care and support to the families of the 55 passengers and 7 crew members who lost their lives," Al Ghaith said. "We now have our own specially trained care teams both on the ground in Rostov-on-Don and in Dubai. We are making arrangements for the families who wish to visit the scene of the accident, to do so. We would ask that at such a sensitive time all the families be given the space they need to grieve."

The recording devices retrieved from the crash site are designed to withstand heavy damage and investigators can usually extract information from them despite damage, but it may take a few days.The cockpit voice recorder could provide clues about the decisions the crew made before the crash.

A more detailed analysis of the data from the two black boxes could take weeks or even months.

Investigators also will study conversations the crew might have had with air traffic control and the airline's flight operations center during the two-hour period between the first landing attempt and the second try during which the jet crashed. Investigators may also interview the crew of another plane that also attempted to land at Rostov, but then diverted to another airfield after several failed attempts.

Al Ghaith said Sunday the plane was carrying enough fuel to divert to another airport.

Accident investigators pledged to issue a preliminary report within a month to adhere to rules set out by the International Civil Aviation Organization, the air-safety arm of the United Nations.

The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board is supporting the investigation, since the Boeing plane was built in the United States.

The Boeing 737-800 originated from Dubai.

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