MOSCOW, March 19, (Agencies): A Dubai airliner with 62 people on board nosedived and exploded in a giant fireball early Saturday while trying to land in strong winds in the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don, killing all aboard, officials said. Several planes had trouble landing at the airport at the time of the crash, with one trying to land three times before giving up and diverting to another airport, experts said. Russia’s Emergencies Ministry said the Boeing 737-800 operated by flydubai was carrying 55 passengers, most of them Russians, and seven crew members.
flydubai confirmed there were no survivors and said four children were among those killed. In Kuwait, His Highness the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al- Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah sent on Saturday a cable of condolences to UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan over the victims of Boeing 737 plane of flydubai which crashed in southern Russia early on Saturday.
His Highness the Amir also sent a similar cable to UAE Vice-President, Prime Minister and Dubai Ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum. In the cable, His Highness the Amir expressed profound grief for the tragedy, and sympathy with the families of the victims. His Highness the Crown Prince Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah and His Highness the Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber Al-Mubarak Al-Hamad Al-Sabah addressed similar cables.
His Highness the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al- Jaber Al-Sabah sent Saturday a cable of condolences to Russian President Vladimir Putin over the victims of Boeing 737 plane of flydubai which crashed in southern Russia early on Saturday. In the cable, His Highness the Amir expressed profound grief for the tragedy, and sympathy with the families of the victims and the friendly people of Russia.
His Highness the Crown Prince Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah and His Highness the Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber Al-Mubarak Al-Hamad Al-Sabah sent similar cables. It was flydubai’s first crash since the budget carrier began operating in 2009. Its fleet consists of mint 737-800 aircraft like the one that crashed. Closed-circuit TV footage showed the plane going down in a steep angle and exploding. The powerful explosion left a big crater in the runway and pulverized the plane but investigators quickly recovered both fl ight recorders. The cause of the crash wasn’t immediately known, but offi cials and experts pointed at a sudden gust of wind as a possible reason. “By all appearances, the cause of the air crash was the strongly gusting wind, approaching a hurricane level,” said Rostov regional Gov Vasily Golubev. According to weather data reported by Russian state television, when the fl ydubai plane fi rst tried to land, winds at ground level weren’t dangerously strong, but at an altitude of 500 meters (1,640feet) and higher they reached a nearhurricane speed of around 30 meters per second (67 miles per hour).
Later, when the plane crashed, winds near the surface reached 22 meters per second (49 miles per hour) and could have been even stronger at altitude. Several planes had landed in Rostovon- Don shortly before the Dubai airliner was scheduled to touch down, but other fl ights later were diverted. Ian Petchenik, a spokesman for the fl ight-tracking website Flightradar24, told The Associated Press that the fl ydubai plane missed its approach, then entered a holding pattern, circling for about two hours before making another landing attempt. It said a Russian Aerofl ot plane scheduled to land around the same time made three landing attempts but then diverted to another airport. Flightrader24’s data indicated that the Dubai plane began climbing again after a go-around when it suddenly started to fall with vertical speed of up to 6,400 meters per minute (21,000 feet/min). “It was an uncontrollable fall,” said Sergei Kruglikov, a veteran Russian pilot, said on Russian state television. He said that a sudden change in wind speed and direction could have caused the wings to abruptly lose their lifting power. He said the pilots would have understood seconds before the crash that they were going to die, but “passengers and the cabin crew likely didn’t realize they were facing imminent death.”
Flydubai CEO Ghaith al-Ghaith said the plane attempted to land in line with established procedures. He added that the pilots hadn’t issued any distress call and hadn’t attempted to divert to an alternate airport. “As far as we know, the airport was open and we were good to operate,” he said, adding that the plane couldn’t have landed without air traffi c controllers’ permission. “Our primary concern is for the families of the passengers and crew who were on board. Everyone at fl ydubai is in deep shock and our hearts go out to the families and friends of those involved,” he added. Al-Ghaith said the plane’s pilots, who were from Cyprus and Spain, had 5,965 and 5,769 hours of fl ying time respectively, making them “quite experienced.” The cabin crew included two Russians and citizens of the Seychelles, Colombia and Kyrgyzstan.
The plane was built in 2011 and underwent a detailed maintenance inspection known as a C check in January, he added. President Vladimir Putin offered his condolences to the victims’ families and top Russian Cabinet offi cials fl ew to the crash site, 60 kilometers (37 miles) from the Russian border with Ukraine, to oversee the investigation. Alexander Neradko, head of the Russian state civil aviation agency, Rosaviatsiya, said it was up to the pilot to decide if weather conditions allowed the landing and said that traffi c controllers in Rostovon- Don acted in line with standard instructions. “Our air traffi c controllers were acting in full accordance with international rules and there is no reason to talk about any fl aws in their work,” he said in televised remarks from Rostov-on-Don. A local online newspaper, Donday. ru, released what it said was the recording of conversations between the Dubai plane’s crew and air traffi c controllers, in which the pilot, who sounded calm, was inquiring about weather conditions. The authenticity of the tape couldn’t be independently confi rmed. Russian Transport Minister Maxim Sokolov, who also arrived in Rostov-on- Don, said the airport fully conformed to modern standards. “(The airport’s) complete overhaul was completed last year, and it has received all the necessary clearances, including international ones,” he said. Pilot Vitaly Sokolovsky told Rossiya 24 television that a sudden gust of wind could be particularly dangerous at low altitude while the plane was fl ying slowly at low power and the pilot was throttling up the engines to make another attempt at landing.