Russian Plane Goes Near Vertical, Crashes

A Tatarstan Airlines plane, a Boeing 737, crashed on its second attempt at a landing in Kazan, 720 kilometers (520 miles) east of Moscow.  It killed all 50 people on board.

Eight experts from NTSB, FAA and Boeing are heading to Russia to help with the investigation.

On Monday, investigators were trying to answer basic questions, like why couldn’t the crew land in their first attempt in good, clear weather or what caused the the plane to go near vertical on its second attempt to land.  A traffic controller did make contact with the crew before the crash; the crew indicated that they weren’t ready to land as it was making its approach but reasons for this weren’t provided.

According to John Cox, an aviation safety consultant who flew 737s for 15 years for US Airways, said the investors will investigate whether the plane experienced an aerodynamic stall, which usually occurs when a plane slows to the point where its wings lose lift.

“Anytime you have an airplane that gets this vertical, the immediate suspicion is that it stalled,” Cox said in an interview. “The airplane hit very hard … it’s in a lot of small pieces.”

It is less likely it was a design flaw of the plane.  Boeing 737s have a very good reputations in the industry.  Though 737s were first introduced in 1968, there have been major changes in subsequent generations.

Tatarstan Airlines records showed the plane was built 23 years ago and had been used by seven other carriers prior to being picked up by Tatarstan Airlines in 2008.  The plane was damaged in a landing accident in Brazil in 2001 but no on was injured.  Tatarstan Airline insisted that the aircraft was in good condition for the flight.

The carrier has had a good safety record but appears to have run into financial problems recently. Its personnel went on strike in September over back wages, and the Kazan airport authority has gone to arbitration to claim what it said was Tatarstan Airlines’ debt for servicing its planes.

Industry experts have blamed some recent Russian crashes on a cost-cutting mentality that neglects safety in the chase for profits. Insufficient pilot training and lax government controls over the industry also have been cited as factors affecting Russian flight safety.

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