Investigators looking at pilot error, technical fault in Russian plane crash

Tuesday, December 27th, 2016
Last Update: 09:50

The investigation into the Russian airplane that crashed into the Black Sea on Sunday will focus on pilot error or technical problems. A Russian news agency reported a black box has been found.

While parts of the Russian Tu-154 aircraft were found after a crash into the Black Sea, Russia΄s federal security service said it would investigate whether the crash was a result of technical faults or pilot errors.The plane initially flew from Chkalovsky military airport and landed in Sochi to refuel on its way to Syria. The aircraft crashed into the sea shortly after take-off. No survivors are expected. At least 11 bodies have been recovered so far. There were 92 on board.

TASS news agency reported on Tuesday that the black box with flight data was located.

Terrorism was not totally ruled out as the cause of the crash, but the federal security service said there were "no signs or facts pointing to a possible act of terror (that) have been received at this time" in a statement.

Transportation Minister Maxim Sokolov echoed the statement, saying on television that terrorism was not one of the main theories for the cause of the crash. Russian intelligence agency FSB later released a statement agreeing with Sokolov, saying it "has not found any signs or facts pointing to a possible terror attack or sabotage on board."

The FSB said it was looking into pilot error, low quality of fuel, external objects in one of the engines, or an unspecified technical fault.

But aviation experts said there were factors that could suggest a potential terrorist attack, including whether the crew failed to report a malfunction and the debris was scattered over a wide area of the Black Sea.

"Possible malfunctions…certainly wouldn΄t have prevented the crew from reporting them," said former senior Russian air traffic controller Viltaly Andreyev to Russian news agency RIA Novosti.

Day of mourning

Monday was declared a day of mourning by Russian President Vladimir Putin for the victims of Sunday΄s plane crash. Dozens of the passengers were members of the Alexandrov Ensemble, or Red Army Choir, who were to perform at the Hmeimim air base at New Year΄s. Mourners brought flowers to the Sochi airport, as well as the headquarters of the Alexandrov Ensemble in Moscow.

Charity worker Yelizaveta Glinka was also on the doomed flight. People left flowers at the office of Fair Aid, the organization that Glinka ran. Fair Aid works primarily with homeless in Moscow.

Putin ordered Russian state television broadcast black and white photos of the victims on the screen as other entertainment was canceled.

Tu-154 troubles

The aircraft model involved in Sunday΄s crash was involved in other notorious crashes in the past. More than 800 have died in major crashes involving a Tu-154 since 2000. The model is no longer used by commercial airlines.

In April 2010, then-Polish President Lech Kaczynski, as well as 95 others died in a crash while on a Tu-154.

kbd/kl (AFP, AP)

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