62 dead in plane crash at Russian airport

The Boeing 737 landed about 250m short of the start of the runway amid strong winds and heavy rain at Rostov-on-Don airport, erupting in a huge fireball as it crashed and scattering debris across a wide area. Investigators say the two black boxes hav
The Boeing 737 landed about 250m short of the start of the runway amid strong winds and heavy rain at Rostov-on-Don airport, erupting in a huge fireball as it crashed and scattering debris across a wide area. Investigators say the two black boxes have been found and the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority is sending an investigative team to Russia.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY
Relatives of the crash victims at Rostov-on-Don airport. All 55 passengers and seven crew members on board were killed.
Relatives of the crash victims at Rostov-on-Don airport. All 55 passengers and seven crew members on board were killed.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Emirates sister airline's flight from Dubai crashes in second bid to land in poor weather

MOSCOW • The Investigative Committee of Russia said it is looking into pilot error or technical failure as the most likely cause for the plane crash that killed 62 people in southern Russia yesterday, Russian news agencies reported.

The flydubai plane crashed on its second attempt to land in bad weather at Rostov-on-Don airport, Russian officials said.

It came down about 250m short of the start of the runway, erupting in a huge fireball as it crashed.

Officials confirmed that all 55 passengers and seven crew members on board were killed. The plane, which had left Dubai at 6.20pm GMT (2.20am Singapore time) crashed 61/2 hours later, the airline said.

The passengers comprised 44 Russians, eight Ukrainians, two Indians and one Uzbek national. Among them were 33 women and four children.

The airline said: "We are currently contacting relatives of the passengers and crew who were on board and we are offering any help we can to those affected."

Investigators said the plane "skimmed the ground and broke into several pieces", with fragments of the Boeing 737 reportedly scattered up to 1.5km from the crash site. They also confirmed the two black boxes had been retrieved.

A strong wind warning was in place and it was raining heavily at the time of the crash.

LifeNews said due to poor weather, the plane had been circling the area trying to land for two hours.

flydubai chief executive Ghaith Al Ghaith said at a news conference in Dubai it was too early to ascertain the cause.

He said: "An investigation is being conducted in cooperation with the Russian authorities and we are waiting to see the results."

Mr Ghaith said he had no information to indicate that the Cypriot pilot, 38-year-old Aristos Socratous, had issued a distress call.

He and his Spanish co-pilot had over 5,000 hours of flight experience each.

Mr Ghaith also played down the possibility that terrorism was behind the crash.

Investigative Committee representative Oksana Kovrizhnaya said: "At present, we are looking into two main theories for the plane crash... pilot error in connection with deteriorating weather conditions or a technical error."

The Dubai Civil Aviation Authority said it was sending an investigative team to Russia.

President Vladimir Putin expressed his condolences to the families of the victims, the Kremlin said.

A no-frills budget carrier which is a sister firm to Emirates, the government-owned flydubai was set up in 2008. This is its first crash, but one of its planes was hit by a bullet as it landed in Baghdad airport last year.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on March 20, 2016, with the headline '62 dead in plane crash at Russian airport'. Print Edition | Subscribe