The black box from a passenger plane that crashed in southern Russia, killing all 62 people on board, has been found. The Boeing 737-800, operated by budget airline FlyDubai, nose-dived and erupted in flames while trying to land at Rostov-on-Don airport at around 3.50am local time on Saturday. (19 March)
The plane crashed about 250 metres (800 feet) short of the runway. All 55 passengers, including 33 women and four children, along with seven crew members have been confirmed dead by the airliner. The cause of the crash is not yet known.
Russia's emergency ministry said the aircraft had been forced to abandon an initial attempt to land. The aircraft was in a mid-air holding pattern and had been circling around the area for about two hours before making another attempt to land. On its second landing attempt its wing hit the ground and burst into flames, the Rostov region's emergency ministry said.
CCTV footage showed the aircraft going down at a steep angle and exploding in a huge fireball. The plane was destroyed and smashed into tiny fragments, but investigators have managed to recover both of the flight recorders undamaged from the wreckage. Decoding data from the FlyDubai Boeing's black boxes could take up to three months, said Oksana Kovryzhnaya, a spokeswoman for Russia's Investigative Committee.
In the meantime, the Investigative Committee of Russia Tass news agency said it is now probing three possible causes of the crash: pilot error, technical failure or bad weather conditions. A strong wind warning was in place and it was reportedly raining hard at the time of the crash.
At a press conference, Flydubai CEO Ghaith Al Ghaith warned it was "too early" to determine why flight FZ981 crashed. "An investigation is being conducted in cooperation with the Russian authorities and we are waiting to see the results," he said. "Our primary concern is for the families of the passengers and crew who were on board. Everyone at FlyDubai is in deep shock and our hearts go out to the families and friends of those involved."
Vasily Golubev, governor of the Rostov region, said: "By all appearances the cause of the air crash was strongly gusting winds approaching hurricane weather."
Data from FlightTracker24, a website that monitors air traffic, showed that another aircraft aborted three successive attempted landings before diverting to diverted to Krasnodar airport, 300km (186 miles) south of Rostov-on-Don,another airport just before the crash.
However, some Russian aviation experts claim the steep descent seemed to indicate that the crash was not caused by the strong wind. "It was an uncontrollable fall," Sergei Kruglikov, a veteran Russian pilot, told Russian state television.
The pilots Aristos Sokratous and Alejando Alava, his Spanish co-pilot, had nearly 6,000 hours of flying experience between them, however its thought pilot fatigue may have been a factor in the crash.
Most of the 55 passengers on board the airliner, which was flying from Dubai, were Russians, returning from holidays. Four children were among the dead Sky News reports. Video footage captured the moment the plane crashed.
Vladimir Putin offered condolences to the relatives of the victims and ordered emergency officials and the regional governor to provide support for the bereaved, the Kremlin said in a statement.
It's the first crash for FlyDubai since it began operating in 2009.
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