Russia seeks answers over deadly crash of ageing plane

A handout photo provided early on Monday, Nov 18, 2013, by the Russian Emergencies Ministry's press service shows rescuers working at the crash site of a Boeing 737 passenger airliner in the international airport of Russia's Volga city of Kazan.&nbsp
A handout photo provided early on Monday, Nov 18, 2013, by the Russian Emergencies Ministry's press service shows rescuers working at the crash site of a Boeing 737 passenger airliner in the international airport of Russia's Volga city of Kazan. Russia on Monday sought answers for the latest deadly plane crash to raise concern about the safety of its civilaviation, 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. -- PHOTO: AFP / RUSSIAN EMERGENCIES MINISTRY

MOSCOW (AFP) - Russia on Monday sought answers for the latest deadly plane crash to raise concern about the safety of its civilaviation, 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's Domodedovo airport Sunday night, killing all 44 passengers and six crew on board, the emergencies ministry 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 Mr Alexander Poltinin was quoted as saying by Russian news agencies.

He confirmed that that the crash ocurred 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, Mr Irek Minnikhanov, and the head of Russia's FSB security service in Tatarstan, Mr Alexander Antonov. Also among the dead was a Briton, Donna Carolina Bull, 53, and a Ukrainian national, 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 in central Russia, was 23 years old and had had seven different owners during its life, Russian media and specialised websites 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.

Russia has experienced a string of deadly air crashes, usually involving small and poorly regulated regional airlines that sprang up across Russia after the breakup of the Soviet Union. The most recent major accident before Sunday's disaster was in April 2012 when a passenger plane crashed shortly after takeoff from Tyumen airport in Siberia, killing 33 people.