Sunday, February 11, 2018

Saratow Airlines, Antonov AN-148-100, RA-61704, Flight 6W-703: Fatal accident occurred February 11, 2018 near Argunovo, Russia

Black box data recovered from the ill-fated airliner that crashed outside Moscow last week suggests that the plane’s pilots had received different speed measurements preceding the crash, leading to chaos and hampering attempts to stave the tragedy.

Saratov Airlines Flight 703 plummeted in the Moscow region four minutes after departing from Domodedovo Airport on Sunday, claiming 71 lives.

The pilots' "inarticulate cries" can be heard on the flight recorder immediately before the crash, the Kommersant business daily reported on Thursday.

Citing an unnamed source familiar with the black box data, the outlet said that it showed “the pilots didn’t understand why distorted speed readings showed up on the displays,” hampering efforts to bring the critical situation under control.

According to the data, the pilots had failed to turn on the heating of the An-148 aircraft’s pressure measurement equipment before takeoff, despite the procedure being listed on a preflight checklist.

The pilots reportedly got into an argument about the data while trying to solve the problem, increasing the speed and tilting the plane to the ground preceding the crash.

Earlier, Russia’s Interstate Aviation Committee (IAC) said that the pilots had failed to turn on the heating unit for the plane’s pressure measurement equipment, which displayed incorrect speed readings in cold weather.

Russia’s Investigative Committee said Thursday that it would consider the black box data in its criminal investigation of the crash.

The pilots of the stricken AN-148 plane which crashed killing all 71 on board reported technical problems moments before takeoff. Here are some of the key exchanges:

Crew: 'To the right 1200, pressure 998.'

Control Tower: '703, the Domodedovo-circle. Good afternoon. Take the flight level 60'

Crew: 'We choose the flight level 60, the parameter of systems 03.'

Crew: 'In a couple of minutes. We contact the technical team, we have problems. Literally in a minute we'll tell you, whether we taxi to the stand, or we taxi out.'

Control Tower: '551, Domodedovo-circle, hello. Left positions are given, the course 'Delta Kilo for the interval, initially take 800 metres, ahead in passing and above.'

Crew: 'To the left on Delta-Kilo we take 800 metres.'

Control Tower: 'To the right on Delta-Kilo, take 800. Did you understand correctly ... 551?'

Crew: 'With the right turn to the Delta-Kilo, take 800 metres. We are taking the flight level 130, 134, .... Thank you, bye.'

Read more:

Speed sensors that were iced over may have caused a passenger jet to crash near Moscow, killing all 71 people on board, investigators say.

The faulty instruments could have given the pilots wrong speed data, Russia's Interstate Aviation Committee said.

The Saratov Airlines jet went down minutes after take-off from Moscow's Domodedovo airport on Sunday.

More than 1,400 body parts and hundreds of plane fragments have been recovered from the crash site.

What are the investigators saying?

A preliminary analysis of the on-board flight recorder indicated the plane had problems two-and-a-half minutes after it took off, at an altitude of around 1,300m (4,265ft).

The instruments began displaying different speed readings, probably because of iced speed sensors while their heating systems were shut off, the committee said.

When the crew detected the issue, they switched off the plane's autopilot. They eventually took the plane into a dive at 30-35 degrees.

Russian media reports said the plane's captain had rejected a de-icing treatment on the plane before takeoff. The procedure is optional and the crew's decision is based mainly on the weather conditions.

Iced-over speed sensors, known as Pitots, were cited as the likely reason for a 2009 Air France plane crash, which killed 228 people.

What about the search operation?

More than 700 people are involved in the search operation, struggling through deep snow.

The emergencies ministry is collecting DNA samples from victims' relatives as part of the identification process of the 65 passengers, including a child and two teenagers, and six crew.

Pilot error as well as malfunctioning sensors likely caused a passenger jet to crash in Russia, killing all 71 people on board, investigators say.

After studying An-148's flight data recorder, the Interstate Aviation Committee said that Sunday's crash near Moscow occurred after the pilots saw varying data on the plane's two air speed indicators.

The flawed readings came because the pilots failed to turn on a heating unit before the takeoff, the committee said.

The plane's captain reportedly didn't want to defrost the aircraft before flying. The procedure is optional and the crew's decision is based mainly on the weather conditions.

The committee said it is continuing to study the data, but noted that "erroneous data on the pilots' speed indicators may have been a factor that triggered the special flight situation.''

It said the flawed speed data resulted from the “icing of pressure measurement instruments that had their heating systems turned off.”

The Saratov Airlines Antonov An-148 took off Sunday from Moscow's Domodedovo airport for a flight to the city of Orsk and went down in a field about 40 miles southeast of the capital.

First Officer Sergey Gambaryan

Captain Valery Gubanov 

The pilots of the Antonov AN-148-100 may have maneuvered their stricken plane away from villages as they desperately sought to make an emergency landing, experts believe.

Investigators remain puzzled as to the cause of the Saratov Airlines crash in which all 71 people on board perished, but one theory is that ice in the engine caused an explosion which downed the Antonov. 

The Russian authorities overnight formally announced there were no survivors as details of those killed were revealed. 

Among the dead was Daria Tolmasova, the girlfriend of ice hockey star Sergey Ilyin, it was revealed today.

The bodies of the victims are “torn to pieces beyond recognition”, with body parts visible in the snow in images too graphic to publish.

Most of the debris from the plane, en route from Moscow to Orsk near the Kazakhstan border, is in small pieces.

Identifying the dead will require DNA matching from relatives.

The plane ascended normally to 5,900 ft from Moscow’s Domodedovo Airport before “suddenly” descending to 4,900ft.

Then it climbed again to 5,900 ft before immediately rapidly descending. 

Some experts believe “the pilots had time to deliberately steer the plane towards a large field so that it didn't hurt people who live in the area, where there are a number of villages”.

Yet there was no mayday or alert from chief pilot Valery Gubanov that the plane was in trouble. 

Witnesses near the crash site suggest there was an explosion in the air possibly in one engine and that the Russian-made Antonov began to break up in the air, but there is speculation this may have been caused not by a bomb but by a de-icing problem in one engine.

At least part of the plane crashed into the ground leaving a crater more than 8ft deep and 60ft in diameter, where investigators have found body parts and pieces of the aircraft. 

Nearby the plane beheaded a small wood of tall trees as it came down, leaving stunted trunks around 10ft high.

So far the investigators see no evidence of terrorism amid the carnage on ground, but they are only now starting to examine the first of two black boxes. The second has yet to be found. 

Alfred Malinovsky, vice president of the Russian pilots trade union told Interfax: “The crash of the An-148 may have been caused by the collapse of the anti-icing system of the engine. 

“Usually, crashes come as a result of multiple factors, several minor issues, each of them can be fatal. 

“This time it is more likely to have been an explosion but it is not necessarily a criminal act. 

“Icing is very likely [the cause].

“The air temperature is slightly below zero, humidity was high. 

“If the anti-icing system collapses, some part of ice may get into the engine and it may result in an explosion. 

“A huge hole on the ground means that the plane fell vertically. The crew did not have time to report the disaster. Some event came all of a sudden and was very quick.”

The authorities say the preparations for the flight were normal but Meduza news outlet reported that the captain had not called for deicing of the plane before takeoff.

However airport officials said anti-icing liquids was applied “as it is a routine procedure”.

A source told Tass: “The latest information is that the plane broke up from crashing into land, not in the air as earlier versions suggested.

“The type of damage on land, a funnel-shaped trace left by the plane indicates a possible strong impact from the plane hitting the ground. 

“The way the plane broke into pieces also confirms it happened not in the air, but from hitting the ground.”

Veteran civilian and Russian air force pilot Vitaly Sokolovsky told that terrorism should not be excluded.

“Of course modern security systems in airports these days do not allow any stranger to get in, particularly with a bomb. 

“But so far no single cause should be excluded. 

“Moreover, there is information that the crew failed to report the emergency situation on board and did not request emergency landing. 

“It means something extraordinary took place on board, an incident that made pilots fight for lives of passengers.”

Among the dead was 22 years old Daria Tolmasova, from Novosibirsk, the fiancée of Sergey Ilyin, defender with Admiral ice hockey club in Vladivostok. 

His agent Shumi Babayev spoke of the player’s “terrible grief”.

“She was only 22 years old. We express our most heartfelt condolences to our friend and his family. Stay strong Sergei.”

Another victim Tatiana Sinitsyna was travelling to Orsk via Moscow from Turkey where her daughter and little granddaughter lived.

Flight attendant Anastasia Slavinskaya, 29, was married with a small son.

Chief energy engineer Vladimir Normantovich and his son Alexander died in the crash. Vladimir was 60, his son 36. 

Mother and daughter Okana and Nadezhda Krasova, 29 and five, perished in the tragedy.

Swiss national Ulriсh Klauein was travelling to Orsk to install a new piece of machinery at Orsk Oil and Gas Synthesis factory. 

Alexey Besedin, the chief of 127 Fire and Rescue brigade, was first to arrive at the scene.

“It was very hard to get to the site which is in a snow covered open field,” he said. 

“There were no paths, only later did heavy machinery blaze roads to the site 

“Fire engines couldn’t get through, we all had to walk in waist-high thick snow for about 600, 700 metres. The wind was very strong, visibility was bad because of wet snow. 

“When we finally broke through the snow, we rushed to look for survivors. We found small bits of fuselage thrown in a radius of about a kilometre.”

In the crater “we found fragments of bodies and pieces of the plane.

“This was the hardest plane crash I ever came across.”

The clean-up operation at the site will take one week, said officials. 

A criminal probe has been launched into the crash. 

Witness Alexey said: "I heard a noise... like a roar.”

This was the largest plane crash in Russia since December 2016 when 92 people died after TU-154 crashed in Sochi. 

“It was quite unusual. You know, it sounds very strange when no one is around, when you hear such an unusual roar... 

“I put on my shoes and rushed outside. And I saw … an explosion. 

“So big, there was such a cloud. Mushroom-shaped, like a nuclear explosion in miniature. 

“The fragments were flying, burning. One of them was flew right onto me.”

Fragments of the plane will be delivered to Moscow and re-assembled at Gromov military airport in Zhukovsky, Moscow.

“We are aiming to start aerial shooting of the area. We’ll map the crash site, documenting all fragments of the plane, and then re-assemble them in Zhukovsky,” an official said.

Mr Gubanov was an experienced pilot especially on the An-148.

“He had a record of over 5,000 flight hours, including 2,147 hours of piloting An-148 aircraft,” said a spokesman for Saratov Airlines.

“Second pilot Sergey Arsenovich Gambaryan had a record of 812 flight hours piloting this type of aircraft.”

Radio contact was lost four minutes after takeoff. 

The doomed plane had made “several flights” in the 24 hours before the crash, all without problems. 

There were no “technical deviations” before the Orsk flight, said the airline.

There were 65 passengers and six crew on board.

Russian investigators today found the second black box as they seek to understand the cause of the air tragedy. 

The identification of victims is due to start today - but may take three months because of the extensive damage to bodies.

Moscow (CNN)Emergency workers have found around 200 body parts strewn across a snowy field near Moscow at the site of a Russian plane crash that killed all 71 people onboard.

The body parts found among and around the wreckage of the Saratov Airlines plane will be removed by Monday evening as a team of 600 continue to comb the area with the help of search aircraft, a Russian emergency ministry spokesman said.

An Investigative Committee of Russia spokeswoman said earlier that the body parts and plane fragments had spread over an expansive area.

"The scatter of fragments of the aircraft and bodies of dead passengers occupies a large territory; the radius is not less than 1 kilometer (0.6 miles)," said the spokeswoman, Svetlana Petrenko.

The flight disappeared from radar shortly after taking off from Domodedovo Airport in the greater Moscow region Sunday and crashed southeast of the airport in Ramenskoye District. 

Officials said both of the plane's flight recorders had been recovered but have not given any details of what they have revealed or what the cause of the crash may be.

The Antonov An-148 was bound for the Russian city of Orsk near the border with Kazakhstan. There were 65 passengers and six crew onboard, included three children, aged 5, 13 and 17, state news agency RIA Novosti reported.

Russian President Vladimir Putin gave "deep condolences to all those who lost relatives and friends in this disaster," his spokesman Dmitry Peskov told state media.

Officials launch investigation

Officials have launched a criminal investigation into the crash and all possible causes are being explored, said the Investigative Committee's Petrenko.

Authorities have started questioning Saratov Airlines employees and the Domodedovo Airport workers who prepared the plane for flight.

The crew did not report any problems before the plane crashed, according to RIA. 

The cockpit voice recorder was found Monday in "satisfactory condition," an emergency representative said. The other "black box" -- the flight data recorder registering details such as speed and altitude -- was recovered on Sunday.

The An-148 is a Ukrainian-designed regional jet that was first introduced in 2009. Russian state airline GTK Rossiya, the first carrier to operate the An-148, was sharply critical in 2010 of the model's reliability early on in its service, citing problems with major components like engines and electrical systems, according to Flightglobal.

The jet that crashed Sunday was part of the batch of planes that GTK Rossiya had complained about several years ago, according to the 2010 Flightglobal report. There is no indication yet, however, whether the crash was caused by a technical error, human error or a combination of the two. 

Hundreds of Russian investigators are searching snow-covered fields near Moscow, where a passenger jet crashed killing all 71 people on board.

The 65 passengers and six crew died when the Saratov Airlines jet went down minutes after take-off from Moscow's Domodedovo airport on Sunday.

Bad weather, human error or technical failure are seen as possible causes.

Officials do not see terrorism as a likely cause.

According to Russia's Investigative Committee, "when the plane crashed it was intact, there was no fire, and the explosion happened on impact".

Earlier some eyewitnesses had reported seeing the jet ablaze as it plummeted.

This is the first commercial passenger jet crash for more than a year.

The Antonov An-148 was en route to Orsk in the Ural mountains.

It crashed near the village of Argunovo, about 80km (50 miles) south-east of Moscow. Wreckage and body parts are strewn over a large area - about 30 hectares (74 acres).

More than 700 people are involved in the search operation, struggling through deep snow, but aided by snowmobiles and nine drones. 

Who are the victims?

Russia's health minister said recovery of all of the victims' remains could take up to a week. So far more than 200 body fragments have been recovered.

The emergencies ministry is collecting DNA samples from victims' relatives - specialists have flown to Orsk to do that.

The official list of passengers and crew has been published (in Russian) by the ministry.

A child and two teenagers were among the passengers, most of whom were from the Orenburg region where Orsk is located.

The list is still being updated. Among those killed was a man from Switzerland and another from Azerbaijan.

At least 11 passengers were living in or near Moscow. Three were from the St Petersburg area.

At least eight passengers were from other parts of Russia, and four of the crew were from Saratov.

Details of some of the victims have emerged. They include Darya Tolmasova, 22, who was the girlfriend of an ice hockey player - Sergei Ilyin, of the Admiral team. Tributes to her were posted on Instagram.

President Vladimir Putin has expressed his condolences to the victims' families. Both the US and the UK governments said they were "deeply saddened" by the tragedy.

This is the first commercial passenger jet crash for more than a year - 2017 was the safest year on record for air travel.

What do we know so far about what happened?

The plane took off at 14:27 (11:27 GMT) on Sunday. Contact was lost minutes later.

Flight-tracking site Flightradar24 said it then descended at the rate of 1,000m (3,300ft) per minute.

No emergency call came from the plane, which was reportedly seven years old.

The jet was being flown by an experienced pilot who had 5,000 hours of flight time, the airline told Ria-Novosti news agency.

A criminal inquiry has been launched for "violation of the rules for the operation of air transport".

On Monday, emergency workers confirmed they had recovered the jet's second flight recorder.

What do we know about Saratov Airlines?

In 2015 the regional airline was banned from operating international flights, after inspectors found someone other than the flight crew in a cockpit.

The airline appealed and changed its policy before resuming international charter flights in 2016.

Antonov aircraft were first developed in Ukraine, but are also made in Russia. The twin-engine model involved in Sunday's crash had its first flight in 2004.

In 2011, one broke up mid-flight during a training flight in the Belgorod region in southern Russia, killing all six crew members on board.
Recent Russian air disasters

The country has suffered two major plane crashes since 2015:

A Tu-154 military airliner crashed into the Black Sea with the loss of all 92 people aboard on 25 December 2016, with the disaster blamed on pilot error

A Russian Airbus A321 carrying tourists crashed in Sinai, Egypt, with the loss of all 224 people aboard on 31 October 2015; the Islamic State group said it had placed a bomb aboard.

Story and video:

MOSCOW, February 12. /TASS/. Investigators have concluded that the Antonov An-148 aircraft that had crashed outside Moscow on Sunday did not break up in mid-air, but rather the explosion occurred when the plane hit the ground, Investigative Committee Spokeswoman Svetlana Petrenko said on Monday.

"It has been established that the aircraft was intact at the time of its descent and there was no combustion. The explosion occurred when the plane hit the ground," the spokeswoman said.

"The content the flight recorders will enable experts of the IAC [Interstate Aviation Committee] to reconstruct the flight in detail and determine the cause of the crash," Petrenko explained.

As the spokeswoman said, "during the course of the preliminary investigation, all versions will be looked into, including the work to investigate the airline’s activity, the technical condition of the plane and the pilots’ professional level, as well as facts about the required training underwent."

Investigators are conducting searches and impounding documents at the office of Saratov Airlines, including the documentation on the plane’s maintenance and technical examination, and the crew’s medical checkup, she said.

"The investigators have obtained fuel samples, the files of radio exchanges between flight controllers and the plane’s commander, the files of the system tracking the airliner on the ground and in the air, along with the radar’s electronic data on the plane’s flight," the Investigative Committee spokeswoman said.

The probe involves over a hundred employees from the Investigative Committee who are working in several Russian regions, Petrenko said.

Both flight recorders have been found at the Antonov An-148 crash site in the Moscow region as of now, a source in the Interstate Aviation Committee (IAC) also confirmed to TASS.

"Both the parameter and voice recorders have been located," the source stressed. The flight recorders are severely damaged but decoding is presumably possible, the source confirmed.

"They are both damaged," the source said, adding that it was presumably possible to decode them. The recorders will be delivered to the laboratory shortly.

"The flight recorders will be open as soon as they are delivered, so tonight it will be possible to say for sure if they can be decoded," the source noted.

A criminal case is being pursued under Article 263.3 of the Russian Criminal Code (violation of security requirements while using aircraft, resulting in the death of two and more persons through negligence).

On February 11, an Antonov An-148 passenger plane operated by Saratov Airlines (en route from Moscow to Orsk, in the Orenburg Region) that had departed from Domodedovo airport vanished from radars a few minutes after takeoff. Fragments of the plane were found near the village of Stepanovskoye in the Moscow Region’s Ramensky district. There were 65 passengers and six crewmembers onboard the passenger jet. There were no survivors. According to latest updates, rescue workers have found more than 300 fragments from the plane at the crash site.

The moment of the deadly An-148 passenger plane crash in Moscow region, in which 71 people lost their lives on Sunday, was captured by a surveillance camera installed on a private house near the crash site.


The Wall Street Journal
By Thomas Grove
Updated February 11, 2018 2:04 p.m. ET

MOSCOW—A Russian airplane crashed on the outskirts of Moscow on Sunday shortly after takeoff, killing all 71 on board, as Russian President Vladimir Putin demanded an investigation into the disaster.

The Russian-made An-148 had taken off from Moscow’s Domodedovo Airport and was flying near the capital when it caught fire and fell from the sky, Russia’s state TV reported witnesses as saying.

The crash of flight 703 killed everyone on board, Russia’s Transport Minister, Maksim Sokolov, told Interfax.

The airplane, which had made international flights, was operated by regional Saratov Airlines and was carrying 65 passengers and six members of the crew on its way to the city of Orsk on the border of Kazakhstan.

“A few minutes (after takeoff) radio communication was lost with the crew of the airplane and sight of the plane disappeared,” Russia’s Federal Air Transport Agency said.

Flightradar24, a plane tracking website, said the plane descended rapidly about five minutes into its flight after departing Moscow at 11:22 GMT. The plane was descending at a rate of 22,000 feet a minute when contact was lost.

Other witnesses told Russian media that there was a loud bang before the plane hit the ground. The plane left a crater more than 6 feet deep in the rural surroundings of Ramenskoe region in the southeastern Moscow province, state TV said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is campaigning for a fourth term in power, sent his condolences to those who lost loved ones in the crash, his spokesman told Russian agencies, and ordered a government commission be set up to investigate the disaster. He also canceled plans to travel to the Black Sea resort city of Sochi.

“Due to the tragic events, the president has decided to…continue work in the capital, considering the possible necessity of coordinating work of the governmental commission,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

State television showed debris from the crash of flight 703 scattered across snowy fields to the southeast of Moscow, where 150 medical service workers and rescue teams were looking for remains of the victims. State and regional authorities, including the governor of Moscow province and the head of Russia’s Investigative Committee, also went to the crash site.

Russia’s top carriers have improved their safety record in recent years, but air-safety problems still plague the country’s second- and third-tier airlines. Sunday’s disaster is the worst in Russia since 2016, when a Defense Ministry aircraft full of soldiers, musicians and journalists crashed into the Black Sea after taking off from Sochi on its way to Syria, killing all 92 on board.

The country’s aviation sector was a target for terrorism during the height of an Islamic insurgency following Moscow’s military campaigns in the southern region of Chechnya. In 2004, two planes that departed from Domodedovo were blown up in flights. In 2011, the same airport experienced an attack by a suicide bomber that killed more than 30 people.

Authorities didn’t mention the possibility of terrorism with Sunday’s crash.

Russia has been working to improve safety standards, including maintenance of aircraft, as it hosts the World Cup across more than 10 cities later this year.

Original article can be found here ➤


Anonymous said...

Russian air accidents seem to occur with great frequency. I'd like to see some stats on this.

Anonymous said...

Such a tragedy for the Russians.
However, since one of my patients, not so long ago, sat in a Russian airliner being refueled at a major airport by a man smoking a cigarette (!), before having to actually tie the straps of his seatbelt before take-off, it is clear that the standards of aviation excellence in Russia has a long, a very long, way to go.

lcarson said...

BBC is reporting Flightradar24 reported a rate of descent at 1,000 meters per minute (3,300ft)... That would peg my VSI but wouldn't be outside the realm of what I would expect.

My thoughts and prayers for the loved ones.

Vechni pokoi - eternal rest.