- By Ahmir Islamov
Disaster in the skies over southern Russia as 62 people are killed including children
All 62 people aboard a passenger jet flying from Dubai to southern Russia were killed when their plane crashed on its second attempt to land at Rostov-on-Don airport on Saturday, Russian officials said.
Russia’s emergencies ministry said the aircraft, a Boeing 737-800 operated by Dubai-based budget carrier Flydubai, crashed at 03:40 (00:40 GMT) this morning. Most of those on board were Russian.
The Investigative Committee of Russia said in a horrifying statement on its website. “The aircraft hit the ground and broke into pieces. There were 55 passengers aboard and seven crew members. They all died.”
Both of the plane’s flight recorders have been recovered undamaged, the committee said in a statement.
According to the independent U.S based Flight Safety Foundation, there was strong wind at the airport with a speed of 43 kilometres per hour, with gusts up to 69 kilometres, but visibility was reasonable.
“Different versions of what happened are being looked into, including crew error, a technical failure and bad weather conditions” the committee said.
It said the plane was in a mid-air holding pattern for more than two hours. The crash occurred more than two hours after the plane, flight number FZ981, was scheduled to land.
Russia’s Interfax news agency cited a source in the emergency services as saying the pilot changed his mind about landing on the approach to the airport.
“For an unknown reason, several minutes before the landing, the pilot reconsidered and decided to make another circuit, but wasn’t able to.” Interfax quoted the source as saying.
Flydubai’s CEO, Ghaith Al-Ghaith told a news conference in the Gulf Arab emirate that it was “too early” to determine the cause of the crash.
The most widely accepted early explanation with in Russia itself today is that the tragedy was caused by poor weather conditions, although due to the geographic proximity to Ukraine and the departure location of the flight, interference has not yet been ruled out.
Middle Eastern security forces are on heightened alert for militant threats to aviation following the rebel claims of responsibility for downing a Russian passenger plane over Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula in late October 2015, in which all 224 people on board died.
Sergei Melnichenko, head of Aviation Safety consultancy in Moscow, said so far little pointed to an act of terrorism, but this possibility can still not be ruled out.
“Nothing points to that,” Melnichenko said. “But nothing can be fully ruled out until a complete decryption of the flight recorders is done.”
Officials in the United Arab Emirates told reporters that Dubai’s civil aviation authority was sending an investigation team to Russian to assist in determining the cause of the tragic loss of life.