MOSCOW, November 19 (RIA Novosti) – Crash investigators in Russia said Tuesday that flight recorders from a plane that crashed at Kazan airport, killing all 50 people on board, show that the pilots attempted to land manually as one of the autopilot mechanisms was turned off.
Preliminary findings by the Interstate Aviation Committee (MAK) appear to show that the engines of the Tatarstan Airlines Boeing 737 were functioning until impact.
“A preliminary analysis found no signals typical for failures in the aircraft’s systems and engines,” MAK said.
The process of drawing up a more detailed account of the crash has been hindered, however, by failure to immediately locate the voice recorder.
The Boeing 737 was flying from Moscow to Kazan in the republic of Tatarstan when it crashed around 7:30 p.m. local time (1530 GMT) Sunday, killing all 44 passengers and six crew members on board. Victims included the president of Tatarstan’s son and the head of the local branch of the Federal Security Service.
According to information obtained from a flight data recorder, one of the aircraft’s two autopilot systems normally enabled during landing was switched off.
The crew attempted to perform the landing in manual mode, investigators said.
MAK said in its statement that the crew was unable while approaching the airport to perform the landing according to standard procedure, however.
“Having found out that the aircraft’s position relative to the runway was unfit for landing, the crew reported to the ground control and began the go-around flight maneuver by using the TO/GA [takeoff/go-around] switch,” MAK said in a statement.
Tatarstan Airlines director Aksan Giniyatullin said the pilot also had no direct experience of flying the missed approach procedure that he had initiated just before the disaster.
Giniyatullin insisted, however, that the crew was highly experienced.
The captain and the co-pilot had 2,500 and 1,900 hours of flight experience respectively, he said.
Plane commander Rustam Sulikhov informed air traffic control that the aircraft was in a “non-landing configuration” during the initial approach and that he intended to resolve the problem by going around for a second attempt, state broadcaster Rossiya-24 said Monday.
Transportation Minister Maxim Sokolov said the aircraft “hit the ground vertically,” which pilots say is consistent with a stall following a loss of airspeed or excessive climb attitude – a hazard facing any crew climbing away after a missed approach, particularly in poor weather or at night.
A video posted by various Russian media outlets on Monday showed the plane plummeting vertically into the ground and exploding into a fireball.
The aircraft had originally been due to fly to another destination, but was put on the Kazan route at the last minute as there were too many passengers for the original designated plane, a Bombardier CRJ200.
The airliner, which has been in service since 1990, had previously been operated by seven airlines, including Uganda Airlines. Tatarstan Airlines had operated the plane since 2008.
Recasts intro; updates with investigator’s statement