Pilot error likely cause of flydubai plane crash: Investigators

Airliner was put into a steep dive and pilots were unable to pull out of it, probe finds

MOSCOW • The flydubai passenger plane that crashed in Russia last month flew in a contradictory manner minutes before it smashed into the ground, a statement from investigators said yesterday, suggesting pilot error was to blame.

In a statement, the Moscow- based Interstate Aviation Committee (IAC) said the plane was put into a steep dive from which the pilots where unable to pull out of.

The Boeing 737-800, operated by Dubai-based budget carrier flydubai, came down in the early hours of March 19 at Rostov-on-Don airport in southern Russia on its second attempt to land after flying from Dubai.

The 55 passengers, most of them Russians, and seven crew members were all killed.

Poor weather conditions, including strong winds and rain, made landing difficult.

The IAC said in its preliminary report that the jet hit the ground at a speed of 600kmh after the pilots put the plane into a steep dive.

The accident came following the crew's decision to abort a landing and try to ascend, the committee said.

But at an altitude of 900m, the pilot pushed the control column, or steering controls, back into a dive and "simultaneously" shifted a tail stabiliser "to dive, after which the plane went into a rapid descent".

"The crew's subsequent actions did not manage to prevent the plane from hitting the ground," said the committee.

The IAC stopped short of saying the pilots were definitely to blame, noting they had the necessary experience and training, but said their condition and actions were being evaluated.

The IAC said it now needed to complete work on deciphering the pilots' final conversations in the hours leading up to the crash before it could wrap up its investigation.

Unnamed sources have told Russian newspapers that an initial read-out of the plane's flight recorders had suggested the two pilots argued about the right course of action to take in the minutes before the crash.

Russia's Investigative Committee is carrying out a separate criminal probe into the crash focusing on possible technical problems, weather conditions and human error.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 09, 2016, with the headline 'Pilot error likely cause of flydubai plane crash: Investigators'. Print Edition | Subscribe