Russian experts investigating the weekend plane crash outside Moscow that killed 71 people said yesterday that the accident may have been caused by ice on speed-measuring instruments which led to faulty information on the craft’s airspeed.
“A factor in the development of a special situation in the flight could be the wrong data about flight speed on pilots’ indicators which was likely due to iced pitot tubes (speed probes) while their heating systems were shut off,” said the Russian Interstate Aviation Committee (IAC) which investigates aircraft incidents.
The Antonov An-148 plane took off from Moscow’s Domodedovo airport on Sunday to the Russian city of Orsk and went down in a field around 70km southeast of Moscow shortly after.
All 65 passengers and six crew members on board died.
The IAC said it has completed analysis of the on-board flight recorder and would still need to analyse the black box which recorded conversations in the cockpit.
It would also look at whether the pitot tubes, a vital piece of equipment which measures airspeed, could have malfunctioned.
Iced-over pitot tube instruments were previously named as the likely reason behind the Air France 447 flight crashing into the Atlantic in 2009, killing 228 people on board.
The RBK newspaper yesterday quoted sources as saying that the captain of the Russian flight refused the de-icing procedure while the plane was in Domodedovo airport.
Kommersant newspaper previously said that this was optional given the relatively mild temperatures at the time.
The IAC said the flight began having problems two and a half minutes after takeoff at an altitude of about 1,300m, at which point instruments began to display vastly different speeds.
The plane’s autopilot was turned off and it began to sharply lose speed until impact with the ground at 1127 GMT, the IAC said.
Russia’s Investigative Committee, which probes major crimes, said it would consider the IAC’s findings in its criminal investigation.
Emergency workers have been combing through deep snow at the crash site outside Moscow.
The emergency ministry said yesterday they had recovered 1,400 body parts and 900 plane fragments.
Authorities were taking DNA samples from relatives of the victims in order to complete identification.
The emergency ministry added that it lifted two engines from a crater formed by the plane’s impact, sending them to be investigated. The search would continue today, it said.
The flight was operated by the domestic Saratov Airlines, which announced that it would suspend usage of the An-148.
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