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12 November 2003 – Crash into Black Sea
Israel and Ukraine announced an agreement today on the amount of compensation to be paid for the downing of an Israeli aircraft in October 2001. The passenger jet was shot down by a Ukrainian anti-aircraft missile over the Black Sea, killing 78 passengers and crew members. The Ha’aretz newspaper said the agreement calls for each victim’s family to receive a onetime compensation of several hundred thousand dollars from the Ukrainian government. Ha’aretz said most of the passengers were new immigrants to Israel who were on their way to visit family in Russia, or residents of Russia returning from visits with relatives in Israel. The aircraft was hit by an errant missile fired by Ukrainian forces in training. Initial claims by the Israeli government had set compensation at around $1 million per victim. Ukraine’s government insisted for nearly two years on $16,000 per victim. Israeli Foreign Ministry officials told Ha’aretz the decision was final and not subject to renegotiation. An official signing ceremony is scheduled next month.
26 December 2003 –Ukraine and Russia today agreed on a compensation package for Russian relatives of 78 people killed in the downing of a Sibir Airlines Tupolev Tu-154 passenger aircraft by a stray Ukrainian missile. Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov and his Ukrainian counterpart, Kostyantyn Gryshchenko, signed the deal in Moscow, the Interfax news agency reported. It did not say how much the compensation would be, but Russia’s prime minister said it would be in line with the $200,000 per victim that Ukraine agreed to pay Israeli relatives. The aircraft was bound from Israel to Russia when it crashed into the Black Sea on 4 October 2001, after being hit by a S-200 missile fired during a Ukrainian military exercise. Most of the 78 victims were recent Russian immigrants to Israel. Last month, Ukraine reached a deal with Israel that provided about $200,000 in compensation to each of the 101 relatives of the 40 Israeli dead. Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov said yesterday the compensation for Russian relatives would be comparable to that paid to the Israelis.
18 November 2003 – Crash near Wau, Bahr Alghazal, State, Sudan
A Sudanese cargo plane caught fire and exploded while preparing to land at an airport in southern Sudan, killing all 13 people aboard, the airline’s chief said. Mohamed Abdel Qadir, general manager of Saria Airlines, said “the plane caught fire and exploded” in an apparent accident as it approached Wau airport late yesterday afternoon on a flight from the capital Khartoum. Civil aviation investigators had arrived at the scene today where the main body of the Antonov 12 was found about four kilometres from the airport, Abdel Qadir said. Among the dead were four Armenians, a Russian and an Uzbek who flew the Russian-made plane, he said earlier on state-run Omdurman Radio. In Moscow, the foreign ministry identified the crew as four Armenians and two Uzbeks. The head of the private Khartoum-based airline added that all the others on board also died: three security officials, a Bank of Sudan official, a Saria engineer, a policeman and a military policeman. Abdel Qadir said the plane was carrying commercial foods and an unspecified sum of money sent from the central Bank of Sudan to a local branch. He later said that “the impression we had from the outset and until now was that it was an accident”, doubting it was caused by some kind of attack. The independent Al Sahafa Daily quoted witnesses as saying the plane was on fire in the air before it exploded and fell to the ground. They added that debris was scattered over a wide area at the airport and that some of the bodies were burned beyond recognition, but Abdel Qadir could not confirm any debris there.
18 November 2003 –A Sudanese cargo aircraft has exploded while preparing to land at Wau airport in southern Sudan, killing all 13 people aboard, Omdurman Radio has reported. The Antonov 12 was carrying food items and money on a routine commercial flight from Khartoum to Wau, capital of West Bahr el-Ghazal state. Omdurman says the plane exploded in the air about six kilometres from Wau airport. The aircraft was owned by the private Khartoum-based Saria Airlines company.
19 November 2003 –The Sudanese mass media said yesterday that the aircraft which crashed in southern Sudan on Monday (17 November) and resulted in killing 13 persons was carrying a monetary shipment of 3.5 million dollars. The Russian-made transport aircraft was on its way to Wao town from Khartoum. Witnesses told the Sudanese paper Al-Sahafa that a fire erupted in the aircraft before it blew up and fell down. The director general of the general aviation company in Sudan, Muhammad Abdul Qader, told journalists that it was carrying monetary shipment from the central bank of Sudan to one of the Bank’s branches in Wao. The rebels in southern Sudan had downed several aircrafts during the past years, but they denied any link to the crash of this aircraft.
4 December 2003 – A40-EK (Gulf Air, 23/08/2000)
Gulf Air and the families of the Bahraini victims of the doomed GF-072 flight three years ago have reached an out of court settlement, one of the relatives told Gulf News yesterday. A lawsuit for compensation, due to be heard at a French court later this month, has therefore been withdrawn. The Gulf Air Airbus A320-212 (A40-EK), crashed on 23 August 2000 at sea about five kilometres north-east of Bahrain International Airport resulting in the death of the two pilots, six cabin crew and the 135 passengers. A short joint statement released yesterday by the airline and the committee of the victims’ families said payment of the agreed compensations has been made and “those Bahraini families who had commenced court proceeding in Toulouse have agreed to withdraw those proceedings”. The amount of the compensation was not disclosed. It described the settlement as “amicable”. Earlier news reports said Gulf Air had offered the families a compensation of $125,000 for each adult victim and $80,000 for each minor victim, but the families rejected the offer as inadequate.
28 November 2003 – Crash into sea off Libreville, Gabon (1993)
An official report into the 1993 plane crash which killed 18 members of Zambia’s football team has blamed a mechanical fault in the left engine. Then the pilots switched off the still functioning right engine by mistake because of a “poor indicator light bulb” causing the plane to lose all power and crash, the report said. The first report was released today – ten years after the national tragedy. A lawyer for the victims’ families accused the government of “gross negligence” for using a faulty plane. Sakwiva Sikota, who is also an opposition member of parliament, urged the government to issue a public apology and increase the compensation payment to the victims’ relatives. The report, released in parliament by Vice President Nevers Mumba, said that the loss of power and lift indicated the failure of both engines but said the government may wish to have this confirmed by experts. It also said that the pilot was tired, having just flown back from Mauritius the previous day. Mr Mumba said the government would make an official statement on the report at a later date. Zambians are angry that it took so long for the report to be released. The Zambian Air Force plane crashed near Gabon on 28 April 1993, as it was taking the football team to play a World Cup qualifier in Senegal. Thirty people died in total, including some of Zambia’s most talented players.
29 November 2003 – Crash near Boende, Democratic Republic of Congo
An Antonov An-26 aircraft crashed in the north-western Democratic Repblic of Congo shortly after take-off, killing all 22 Congolese passengers and the crew, officials said today. It was not known how many crew members were on board the aircraft when it crashed near the town of Boende, more than 600 km north-east of Kinshasa, Information Minister Vital Kamerhe said. The cause of the crash was unknown. “The passengers were Congolese. The crew included Congolese, but as this was an Antonov, the pilots may well have been Russian. But I need to check”, said Kamerhe. “Right after take-off from Boende, there was a problem and the aircraft crashed, killing all 22 passengers and the staff on board”, he said, adding he did not know who owned the aircraft. Kamerhe said a team of government experts would be sent to Boende tomorrow to search for the aircraft’s black box.
1 December 2003 –The government today raised the death toll from an aircraft crash in central Congo to 33, including 13 people on the ground who were killed when the military aircraft skidded into a crowded market at the end of a runway. The government had previously reported 22 deaths in the crash which occurred late Saturday (29 November) in Boende, 400 miles north-east of the capital Kinshasa. With no phone lines, and delays in getting investigation teams to the site, details of the crash and news of the increased death toll reached the capital only late today. After days of silence about the cause, authorities said today that a tyre burst on the Antonov 26 just as it was taking off, leaving the pilot unable either to become airborne or brake. “It hit at the end of the runway, after two attempts to stop the plane”, said Vital Kamerhe, a government spokesman in Kinshasa. “The plane stayed on its runaway course before coming to ground in a little market at the end of the strip”. The crash killed all six members of the military crew and fourteen of the 18 passengers aboard the aircraft, as well as 13 people in the market, authorities said. The passengers included women and at least one teenager, indicating that some of those aboard were civilians.
1 December 2003 – Collision in mid-air, Southern Germany (Skyguide, 1 July 2002)
The first pay-outs have been made to relatives of some of the 71 people who died in an aircraft crash over Swiss-controlled airspace last year. The Swiss air traffic control agency, Skyguide, confirmed it had reached an out-of-court settlement with the families of 12 of those who lost their lives. The mid-air crash on 1 July 2002, occurred when a Russian Tupolev Tu-154 passenger aircraft, carrying over 40 schoolchildren, collided with a DHL Boeing 757 cargo aircraft while flying over southern Germany.
2 December 2003 – Crossair HB-AKK (January 2000)
Switzerland’s Air Accident Investigation Bureau has confirmed that human error was to blame for a Crossair plane crash in January 2000, which left ten people dead. The report into the crash said the flight crew committed a series of errors after their take-off instructions were changed. The aircraft (Saab 340B HBAKK) was heading for Dresden in Germany when it crashed shortly after taking off from Zurich airport, killing the three crew members and seven passengers on board. The report identified five causes for the accident, all related to the actions of the flight crew, who lost control of the aircraft, causing it to spiral and nosedive into the ground. It ruled out technical problems and turbulence as factors contributing to the crash. In particular, the report found that the flight crew reacted inappropriately to new instructions from the control tower, telling them to turn left after take-off. The pilot’s decision to switch off the autopilot during the aircraft’s ascent, a work-intensive phase of the flight, also contributed to the crash. In addition, the co-pilot programmed an instruction into the cockpit system – without permission from the pilot – but failed to do so correctly. The aircraft then veered to the right, instead of left as was intended. As a result, the pilot lost his orientation and the aircraft plunged into a spiral dive. The co-pilot then failed to do enough to pull the aircraft out of the dive, said the report. The report cited a number of other factors that may have also contributed to the accident. One of them was the Moldovan captain and his Slovakian copilot’s failure to fully understand unfamiliar cockpit controls and procedures. The Saab 340 model differed from the eastern European models they were used to. “When interpreting the display instruments under stress, the commander resorted to a reaction pattern he had learned earlier”, the report specified. It also suggested that because the captain only possessed a limited knowledge of English, the two pilots might have had difficulties in understanding each other. The two crew members were drafted in on short-term contracts because of staff shortages at Crossair. Previous claims that the captain’s judgement was impaired by his use of the tranquiliser, Phenocepan, were not ruled out. During its investigation, the Air Accident Investigation Bureau drew up a set of safety recommendations for the Federal Office for Civil Aviation. These included measures for training new flight crews, compulsory medical checks by a Swiss doctor, and better guidelines on the use of the flight management system. It also recommended that the autopilot function always be activated at phases of the flight that demand high levels of concentration, such as the initial ascent. Another measure called for more stringent limits on the use of licensed pilots from countries not in compliance with European standards. The final report had been delayed after the former Crossair chief, Moritz Suter, managed to block it in March this year, claiming it contained errors. However, the version made public yesterday had not taken Suter’s remarks into account.
27 December 2003 – China Airlines, B-1816 (1994)
The Nagoya District Court ordered China Airlines yesterday to pay a combined yen 5 billion in compensation over the 1994 crash at Nagoya airport that killed 264 people. The court ruled that compensation for the Japanese victims should be double that of those from Taiwan due to the economic disparities between Japan and Taiwan. The 236 plaintiffs in the suit, including relatives of those killed or injured, were seeking a combined 19.6 billion yen in compensation from the Taiwanese carrier and Airbus Industrie, the European maker of the Airbus A300-600R (B-1816) that crashed on 26 April 1994. Most of the victims hailed from Aichi, Nagano, Gifu and Shizuoka prefectures and from Taiwan. Later yesterday, China Airlines announced that it accepted the ruling, saying it would not appeal. The Nagoya court ordered the airline to pay redress to 232 of the 236 plaintiffs but rejected their demand for compensation from Airbus. It also ruled that the remaining four plaintiffs were ineligible for compensation because they were siblings of victims. The court ordered the airline to pay compensation ranging from some 12 million yen to 172 million yen per victim. The airline had originally offered 16.4 million yen in compensation per victim, regardless of nationality. Presiding Judge Junko Ikadatsu ruled there was “serious misconduct” on the part of the co-pilot, noting, “The co-pilot took action (even though) recognizing that it could result in damage”. Recognition of serious negligence effectively removed the redress ceiling for aviation accidents stipulated under the revised Warsaw Convention for the Unification of Certain Rules relating to International Carriage by Air. Turning to the aircraft manufacturer, the judge said, “It cannot be said that the Airbus design concept for the aircraft lacked rationality and that there was actually a flaw in the design”. The plaintiffs had blamed pilot error and a flawed aircraft design for the catastrophe. The two companies rejected these arguments. Both the pilot and co-pilot perished in the crash. Authorities in France, where Airbus Industrie is based, blamed the crash on human error, while Taiwanese authorities blamed mechanical problems. Based on the Japanese government’s final report on the accident, the plaintiffs attributed the crash to the crew’s lack of experience and knowledge about the aircraft’s operating systems and to the absence of warning systems in the plane to indicate irregular movements of the horizontal stabilizer. Lawyers for the plaintiffs said that most of the plaintiffs have accepted the ruling and want China Airlines to pay compensation promptly, though some plaintiffs are willing to appeal the ruling. As the ruling’s provisional execution was approved, 68 plaintiffs asked the court to seize a China Airlines aircraft in a bid to secure compensation payments. The action would be aimed at discouraging the Taiwanese carrier from filing any appeal against the ruling and encourage it to pay compensation promptly. If the carrier then refused to pay compensation, the plaintiffs would be able to auction the aircraft and get the proceeds as compensation. Many of the plaintiffs expressed dissatisfaction that Airbus was let off the hook and that there has been no apology from China Airlines. According to a 1996 report by the then Transport Ministry’s Aircraft Accident Investigation Committee, the pilot and co-pilot made successive errors, including mistakenly declaring a missed approach and then manually trying to force a landing while the autopilot was in abort-landing mode, resulting in a stall. The attempt to manually override the autopilot resulted in a sudden steep climb and dangerous loss of airspeed, which led to an unrecoverable low-altitude stall, the report says. The plaintiffs filed the suit in 1995 and began negotiations for a court-mediated settlement in 2000. But they eventually rejected the talks, saying the firms failed to apologize for the crash and that the amount of damages suggested by the court was far too low.
25 December 2003 – Crash into sea off Cotonou, Benin
A Boeing passenger aircraft bound for Beirut crashed into the Atlantic Ocean after take-off in the West African country of Benin today, killing dozens of passengers, witnesses and airport officials said. Witnesses said they saw at least 30 bodies strewn on the beach near the airport in the main city Cotonou, where the aircraft crashed just after take-off in the Gulf of Guinea. It was not immediately clear which airline was involved but witnesses said most of the bodies recovered appeared to be Lebanese. There is a large Lebanese community in West Africa. Airport officials said the aircraft had problems retracting its landing gear after take-off, smashed into a building at the end of the runway, exploded and then crashed into the sea. Airport officials said the flight originated in Conakry, capital of the West African nation Guinea, and was travelling to Beirut via Dubai. Sixty-three passengers boarded in Cotonou but the total number of passengers was not immediately clear. Rescue workers were searching the sea after the crash, which took place around 1415, UTC.
25 December 2003 –More than 60 people were killed today when an aircraft bound for Beirut crashed into the sea off the west African state of Benin, witnesses said. One of the crew members on board, who survived the disaster, told local journalists that the aircraft was heading to Beirut and that most of the passengers were Lebanese. The aircraft belonged to a Lebanese charter airline called UTA, according to airport sources in Beirut. Other unconfirmed reports in Beirut said there were 140 passengers on board.
25 December 2003 –At least 90 people have been killed in an aircraft crash in the West African state of Benin. The chartered Boeing 727 bound for Beirut plunged into the sea shortly after take-off from the country’s main city, Cotonou, today. Benin’s Health Minister Celine Segnon said 22 people survived the crash, but four later died in hospital. Most of the victims from the UTA Flight 141 were Lebanese nationals returning to their homeland for Christmas. The aircraft belonged to a charter airline called Union des Transports Africains – it is reportedly controlled by Guinean and Lebanese owners, and is unrelated to the former French airline UTA. The company operates between Africa, Lebanon, and Dubai. UTA Flight 141 originated in Conakry, had stopped in Freetown in Sierra Leone, before landing in Cotonou. It was bound for Beirut and Dubai. An airport official quoted by the Associated Press news agency that the aircraft hit a building at the end of the runway as it was taking off. The aircraft then exploded and fell into the sea.
26 December 2003 –The Boeing 727 crashed on take-off yesterday, scattering debris into the Atlantic Ocean just 500 metres from the airport. Today, the bulk of the destroyed aircraft still lay in the water. Most of the casualties were Lebanese headed home for the Christmas holidays. Benin Health Minister Celine Seignon Kandissounon said that 111 people were now confirmed dead. At least 20 people survived, Transport Minister Ahmed Akobi said. It was unclear exactly how many people were aboard the chartered aircraft. Akobi said the plane’s manifest listed 156 passengers and an unknown number of crew. Looters sifted through debris, grabbing cell phones and cash. There was no word on what caused the crash. Benin’s army chief, Fernard Amoussou, said one of the plane’s two black boxes was found, but it was unclear whether it was the flight data recorder or cockpit voice recorder. The Boeing lifted off in clear weather, about 14.55, local time, from the airport in Cotonou. The rear of the aircraft hit a building at the end of the runway. The aircraft exploded and the debris fell into the water. The flight originated in the Guinean capital, Conakry, and stopped in Freetown, Sierra Leone. It was bound for Beirut. Authorities shut down Cotonou airport for 24 hours after the crash, as a security precaution. Ten Lebanese army divers headed to the crash scene to gather remains, while a six-man Lebanese medical team was sent to Benin hospitals to help treat the wounded. A Lebanese survivor said he was in the back of the aircraft and was able to swim to safety. Those in the front were the most hurt, he said.
26 December 2003 –Survivors grappled with memories while grieving relatives prepared to take their loved ones home after a Beirut bound Boeing 727 crashed into the sea off Benin, killing at least 113 people. Many more were believed missing. Benin’s foreign minister said today there were 151 passengers and ten crew on the Beirut-bound plane which crashed moments after take-off from the West African nation’s main city of Cotonou yesterday. Twenty-two people survived the crash and the search for bodies in choppy sea waters continued late today. By nightfall, rescuers had managed to pull the aircraft’s wreckage out of the Atlantic Ocean. The aircraft smashed into a building at the end of the runway as it struggled to take off, before plunging into the shallow coastal waters. Survivors from the back of the aircraft said they were haunted by screams that rent the air around them as flight UTA 141 went down, spilling bodies and debris onto the beach. “As soon as we took off, I saw the whole aircraft crumple and people were pushed towards me by the pressure of the crash”, said Khodor Farhat, who was seated at the rear of the aircraft. “Then I woke up in the water. I pushed myself to the surface and swam to the beach where some men pulled me out and took me to hospital”, he said from his bed. The aircraft was carrying many Lebanese passengers heading home for the holidays. By this afternoon, 15 of the Lebanese dead had been identified and the bodies placed in coffins to be flown home on a Lebanese government-chartered aircraft. Survivors were due to be taken back to Lebanon. The aircraft was also carrying people from Benin, Guinea and Sierra Leone. Airport officials said the aircraft had trouble retracting its undercarriage after take-off. The police opened an inquiry. Lebanese Foreign Minister Jean Obeid flew into Benin with a team of diplomats, medical officers and divers today and was due to meet the former French colony’s president later. Guinea’s Transport Minister Cellou Dalein Diallo said the aircraft was first used by the Guinean-registered company Union des Transporteurs Africains (UTA) in September this year. It had previously been used by American Airlines and Afghan Airlines. The deputy superintendent at Conakry Airport said the Lebanese man who chartered the aircraft was on board with his wife and child.
27 December 2003 –Fifteen army officers from Bangladesh returning from UN peacekeeping duty in West Africa were among at least 138 people killed when a jet clipped a building and crashed into the sea shortly after take-off on Christmas Day, officials said today. The peacekeepers boarded the Boeing 727 in Freetown, Sierra Leone, and were heading home for a break after serving there and in Liberia, Bangladesh’s military said. There still was no word on what caused Thursday’s (25 December) crash, but Lebanese Foreign Minister Jean Obeid said in Beirut after a short trip to Benin that the aircraft may have been overloaded.
27 December 2003 –Divers today recovered the black boxes from the wreckage of a Boeing 727 in Benin as investigators puzzled over why the Beirut-bound aircraft crashed into the sea moments after take-off. Another nine bodies were pulled from the surf today, taking the death toll from Thursday’s (25 December) disaster to near 140, while 15 survivors were met by relatives after touching down in Lebanon. The aircraft was carrying 151 passengers plus crew, including over 100 Lebanese nationals, 15 Bangladeshi army officers returning from UN peacekeeping duty in Sierra Leone and Liberia, and people from many African nations. A team of divers found the black boxes underwater in the aircraft’s tail section. The two devices should have recorded cockpit conversations prior to the crash and any anomalies in the functioning of the aircraft. Grieving relatives, Lebanese officials and national investigators want to find out if the aircraft had a technical hitch or crashed into a building during take-off because it was overloaded. At Beirut airport, relatives torn between relief and sadness met 15 survivors, taken home in a Lebanese government aircraft which had carried help to the tiny West African country. Ambulances took the 12 Lebanese survivors, one Syrian and two Palestinians to hospital on arrival at Beirut airport. At least one of the Lebanese was in a critical condition. In Lebanon, Foreign Minister Jean Obeid said after returning from Benin that the aircraft appeared to have been overloaded with passengers and baggage and investigations were under way. “It seems from preliminary evidence that there was a surplus in the number of passengers and a surplus in the load. A big surplus”, he said. “I don’t know if there were problems before but the aircraft was unable to take off”. Some survivors described feeling the aircraft was struggling to take off before it smashed into a building at the end of the runway and plunged into the shallow coastal waters. Airport officials in Benin said the aircraft had trouble retracting its undercarriage but did not rule out that the Guinean-registered aircraft may have been overloaded. “It’s plausible”, said one, adding that the inquiry would take some time to piece together all the evidence. Benin has not allowed the Libyan co-pilot, who survived the crash, to leave as they want him to help with their inquiries.
3 January 2004 –Lebanese authorities opened an inquiry yesterday into Benin’s Christmas Day aircraft crash, which killed at least 139 people, as DNA experts in Benin worked to identify three more bodies, including a baby. State Prosecutor Adnan Addoum said Guinean authorities had denied submitting to Lebanon any official documents proving that Union des Transports Africains (UTA), the Lebanese-owned company that operated the flight, was registered in Guinea. Addoum also said that Abdel-Latif Abdel-Latif, who heads the civil aviation authority at Beirut Airport, said in a sworn testimony the aircraft had previously landed and flown from Beirut, contrary to what Hamdi Shawq, the director of civil aviation, had testified earlier. Addoum plans to interrogate Ahmed Khazem, who holds shares in UTA, as well as other witnesses today as part of an inquiry that is meant to pinpoint responsibility and explain what caused the plane to crash. Preliminary reports suggested the Boeing 727 was overloaded when it crashed into the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Cotonou in Benin after a failed take-off. The confirmed death toll has reached 139 passengers, including at least 79 Lebanese. At least three passengers have not been accounted for. About 22 of the passengers were injured, and 17 of these were Lebanese. The plane is thought to have been carrying 161 passengers although there was no manifest to confirm the number. The bodies of the Lebanese victims were returned to the country aboard a French military aircraft last weekend.
Transport Minister Najib Mikati said no one had pressured Lebanese authorities into allowing the aircraft to land at Beirut’s airport. He held Guinean authorities responsible for registering UTA although the aircraft and mode of operation did not meet international civil aviation standards.
6 January 2004 –The reasons behind the aircraft crash at Cotonou airport which took the lives of 87 Lebanese passengers 11 days ago remain unclear, with parents demanding more explanations and rumours of political interference growing. Yesterday, Trans Mediterranean Airways (TMA) denied reports in the press that it had conducted the technical maintenance of the Union des Transports Africains (UTA) aircraft which crashed in Cotonou, Benin, on 25 December. In a statement, TMA said it only conducts maintenance work on Boeing 707 aircraft, while the UTA aircraft was a Boeing 727. “The mentioned plane never entered the maintenance hangars of TMA and our company never did any technical examination on this plane”, the statement read. Also, according to TMA, UTA had six months ago commissioned maintenance on the aircraft but TMA had refused “because this doesn’t fall under our specialisation”. TMA said its only transaction with UTA had consisted of the sale of a nitrogen tank to the airline in July 2003 and other on-board equipment. Civil Aviation director Hamdi Shawq was not available for comments yesterday, but according to reports at least nine bodies have not yet been identified and at least one body has not yet been found. Meanwhile, rumours are growing over how UTA obtained clearance to land at Beirut International Airport despite the fact that it did not meet safety requirements. Yesterday, former Defence Minister Albert Mansour told the press he thought local officials might have exerted pressure to have the UTA aircraft land here.
3 January 2004 – Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt
An Egyptian Boeing 737 carrying 148 people, most of them French tourists on New Year family holidays, crashed into the Red Sea off the resort of Sharm el-Sheikh today, killing all on board. The aircraft, operated by the Egyptian charter company Flash Airlines, disappeared from radar screens minutes after take-off from Sharm el-Sheikh airport at 0244, UTC, and crashed into deep water a few miles to the south-east. Egypt’s civil aviation minister said the causes of the crash were “entirely technical” and a senior aide said there was no sign of terrorism. France’s deputy transport minister said the aircraft had problems taking off and crashed while trying to turn back to the airport. “There was a problem at take-off”, Dominique Bussereau said at Paris’s Charles de Gaulle airport, the charter flight’s final destination. “It tried to turn back and it was when trying to do this that it crashed”. The French government said there were 133 French and two other passengers on board and a French medical official said many of them were children on family holidays. Officials said the aircraft had a crew of 13 Egyptians and Moroccans. Egyptian military aircraft and vessels, helped by small boats from nearby diving centres, launched a rescue operation at first light but eyewitnesses said they found pieces of human bodies but no complete corpses and no survivors. “The chances of finding complete bodies look slim because of the force with which the aircraft hit the surface of the water”, said Yasser Imam, a spokesman for the local authorities. The aircraft was heading for Cairo to refuel, change crew and take on more passengers before flying on to Paris. The pilots did not report a problem, official sources said. French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin and Transport Minister Gilles de Robien rushed to Charles de Gaulle airport, where distraught friends and relatives who had gone to meet the flight were being told of the crash. French Justice Minister Dominique Preben asked prosecutors to open a judicial inquiry for manslaughter, saying this would provide a legal framework for French and Egyptian investigators to work together to find the cause of the crash. Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher said Egyptian authorities would run the investigation. French experts would be welcome but “what matters is to find out the truth, and Egypt has enough capacity and experience to find out the truth...”. The aircraft crashed in the Strait of Tiran, between the Sinai peninsula and Saudi Arabia, where the water is hundreds of meters deep – too deep for divers to reach the flight recording devices, diving school managers said. Civil Aviation Minister Ahmed Mohamed Shafiq Zaki said evidence from witnesses and equipment on the ground suggested the crew lost control shortly after take-off because of a technical fault and crashed while trying to bring the aircraft back on course at low altitude. French President Jacques Chirac telephoned his Egyptian counterpart Hosni Mubarak to obtain details of the crash and expressed his “deepest shock” at the tragedy, his office said. The aircraft was maintained regularly in Norway and there was no sign of any mechanical fault before its last flight, the official Egyptian news agency MENA reported.
4 January 2004 –Search teams hunted with nets today for the remains of 148 people, mostly French tourists, who died in an Egyptian aircraft crash France said was most likely due to a loss of power. Egypt defended the safety of its aircraft after Swiss aviation authorities said they had banned from Swiss airspace the operators of the Boeing 737 which plunged into the Red Sea minutes after take-off from the tourist resort Sharm el-Sheikh yesterday. The victims included 133 French tourists. An official of Egypt’s Civil Aviation Ministry said all aircraft belonging to private Egyptian companies were subject to regular inspections and no plane was allowed to take off until its safety had been checked. As boats and planes scanned the Red Sea for bodies and wreckage, France’s Transport Minister Gilles de Robien said in Paris, while no one could be absolutely certain, all indications pointed to an accident. “There was no explosion before the crash, no one has claimed responsibility for (an) attack”, he said. “The arguments most commonly set out show that it was simply a loss of power”, he told French radio Europe 1. French Deputy Foreign Minister Renaud Muselier toured the crash site as France sought to answer what had happened to the plane. France mobilised specialist divers, crash investigators and other experts to the resort. A radar-equipped frigate was due to arrive tomorrow to help in the search for “black box” flight recorders, which should help explain what went wrong with the aircraft after it took off. In Zurich, a Swiss aviation official said the private Egyptian charter company Flash Airlines, operators of the doomed Paris-bound aircraft, had been banned from Swiss airspace since October 2002 due to safety concerns. “During an inspection we discovered that the airline was a danger to aviation security”, said Celestine Perissinotto, a spokeswoman for the Swiss Federal Office for Civil Aviation. “If a company is forbidden (to fly over national airspace)... that means the problems are serious”, she said. Egypt’s Civil Aviation Minister Ahmed Mohamed Shafiq Zaki responded by saying the Swiss had not punished Flash Airlines for safety violations. The official Egyptian news agency MENA said he denied reports that Switzerland had refused to let Flash Airlines aircraft land on Swiss territory.
5 January 2004 –A press report, dated today, states: The French Navy deployed a robot submarine as France and Egypt launched a major push today to find the fuselage and flight data recorders of the aircraft that crashed into the Red Sea, killing 148 people. The parts of bodies recovered from the sea so far bore no burns, suggesting there was no explosion on the Egyptian chartered Boeing 737 that plunged into the sea minutes after take-off on Saturday (3 January), French Deputy Foreign Minister Renaud Muselier said today. Egyptian officials say the crash appears to have been caused by a mechanical problem. The depth of the Red Sea at the crash site has hampered efforts to retrieve the remains of the aircraft and find the flight data recorders. The sea is believed to be 880 yards deep at that point. The French began using a frigate, a helicopter, 16 divers and an aircraft equipped with advanced radar and an ultra violet camera to search for the wreckage today, said French Embassy spokesman Ahmed Fadil. The robot submarine has a video camera and can dive to a maximum of 440 yards, Fadil said. The Egyptian Navy had six boats in the crash area today. So far about 60 body parts have been recovered and no entire corpse – an indication of the impact of the plane which suddenly descended from more than 5,000 feet.
6 January 2004 –Searchers hunting for the wreckage of an airliner zeroed in on a signal late yesterday that could be the black box – holding clues to the cause of the Red Sea crash that killed all 148 people aboard, a French embassy official said. The US State Department, meanwhile, said four people with dual US-Egyptian citizenship were among the dead, the first word that Americans were on the Flash Airlines flight, which was bound for Paris via Cairo. Most of the passengers were French tourists. The crash coincided with heightened concern about terrorism in the skies, but Egypt quickly ruled out the possibility of an attack, saying the crash was an accident caused by a mechanical failure. At the same time Egyptian officials said they did not yet know the nature of the mechanical problem, adding that the jet checked out fine before the flight. A French military plane equipped with radar took its first surveillance flight over the area yesterday, and a team of 16 French military divers was to begin work today.
7 January 2004 –Searchers located one of the black box flight data recorders yesterday from a charter jet that crashed into the Red Sea last weekend, but it was too far under the water to be immediately retrieved, a French official said. Rear Adm Jacques Mazars told reporters at Sharm el-Sheik that more advanced equipment was needed to retrieve the box, which was believed to be 2,000 to 2,500 feet below the sea’s surface. “Given the approximate depth of the black box, it is not possible to find it immediately with the means that we have”, he said. A robot submarine sent by the French can operate no deeper than 1,300 feet. Mazars, who heads the French forces sent to Egypt to help with the search, said the French Defence Ministry might send a remote-control submarine that can go deeper, but that it would take a week to arrive. Officials have not yet found the fuselage of the 11-year-old Boeing 737, but Mazars said that searchers yesterday used a sonar attached to a robotic arm extending from a boat to determine that a signal that had been picked up was from the recorders. The signal is about 500 to 600 yards from where the plane is believed to have crashed. Mazars said the search for the fuselage was focused on a surface area of less than 2.5 acres, four to five miles from shore. “Underwater acoustics are not an exact science”, he said. “We have a zone of probability that is rather strong”. Egyptian officials say they do not know what sort of mechanical problem may have occurred and said the jet checked out fine before the flight.
7 January 2004 –Searchers today detected the second black box flight data recorder of a charter jet that crashed into the Red Sea. The box located today is about 2,625 feet below the surface of the Red Sea. The one found yesterday was up to 2,600 feet deep, a French official said. They are between 1,100 and 2,000 yards apart. “The signals were good and clear”, said Rear Adm. Jacques Mazars. “The signal of the second black box is stronger than the first”. Both are too deep to be retrieved with the equipment on hand, said Mazars, adding they were waiting for equipment from France to retrieve the boxes. In Paris, the prime minister’s office said a special submarine on loan from state-run France-Telecom could arrive in Egypt as early as tomorrow. That submarine can dive to 3,610 feet. Another small submarine and a special French Navy vessel, the Beautemps-Beaupre, could also arrive within the week to map out the sea floor in the area, including debris. France has sent in 500 people and equipment to help Egypt with search and recovery. The salvage team will have three to four weeks to find the black boxes, said Mazars, who heads the French forces sent to with the search.
16 January 2004 –France yesterday deployed four sound tracking buoys off the coast of Sharm el-Sheikh to locate the flight recorders of an Egyptian Boeing 737 which crashed early this month, killing all 148 people on board. The buoys were expected to help search teams locate one of the so-called black boxes within a few centimetres of its signal, French officials said. The tracking technology they had been using would only allow them to come within 200 metres. The buoys belong to the private French firm Acsa and were being operated by the French navy. The search for the second black box was being carried out by a submarine robot, the Scorpio, owned by France Telecom Marine. It made its first dive on Tuesday (13 January), controlled from cable vessel Ile de Batz. French experts working with Egyptian teams have said the two black boxes were at a depth of up to 800 metres and 1.5 kilometres apart. The new equipment was expected to boost the efforts of the search teams investigating the crash of the Flash Airlines flight which killed 134 French tourists and a Moroccan, as well as 13 Egyptian crew members shortly after the aircraft took off for Paris. French oceanographic vessel Beautemps-Beaupre was expected off Sharm el-Sheikh later yesterday to map out the submarine landscape of the search area, and an underwater search vehicle, the Super Achille, is also to join the efforts The black boxes are expected to reveal the exact cause of the accident, although Egyptian and French experts believe it was caused by a technical fault or other accident and not terrorism. Meanwhile, the chairman of Flash Airlines said yesterday he was prepared to go to France to discuss compensation with the families of those who died. Mohammad Nour also said that because of the damaging publicity that followed the Red Sea crash, the company had suspended the flights of its other aircraft until February. He added that he had already made arrangements with Flash’s insurers for a first payment to be made quickly, without waiting for an end to the probe into the cause of the crash. Nour said the Boeing 737-300 had been insured for $550 million, and that if total claims exceeded that amount, “Flash Airlines must pay the difference”. He explained that the amount paid out would depend on the age, family situation and health of each victim. Flash is covered by Egypt’s Sharq Insurance Co, with the policy reassured through the Egyptian Reassurance Co and ultimately by a Lloyd’s of London syndicate, XL Brockbank Ltd.
17 January 2004 –A French salvage team today gave Egypt the data recorder from a Boeing 737 that crashed into the Red Sea killing 148 people, and Egyptian officials said it was going to Cairo for analysis. The office of French Prime Minister Jean- Pierre Raffarin said the salvage team had also located the second “black box”, which records cockpit conversations, and was trying to retrieve it from the bottom of the Red Sea. Search and rescue experts detected a weak signal from the second flight recorder four days after the aircraft, carrying 133 French tourists and 15 other people, plunged into the sea minutes after takeoff from Sharm el-Sheikh on 3 January. However, so far they have not been able to retrieve it from the sea bed with their submersible robots. In Cairo, Egyptian Civil Aviation Minister Ahmed Mohamed Shafiq Zaki said that Egypt had the technical means to download and analyse the data from the flight recorder, while personnel from the US aircraft manufacturer Boeing would take part in the investigation as observers. If the Egyptians need any help from France, they will ask for it “without embarrassment”, the minister added. He said that the Swiss ambassador in Cairo had admitted to him that a Swiss official made a mistake when she said that Switzerland had taken steps against the airline. The ambassador, Raimund Kunz, said he had told the minister that he personally felt that it was “not the best moment” to make such a statement so soon after the crash.
18 January 2004 –A French-led navy search team has given Egypt a slightly damaged second “black box” flight recorder from the Boeing 737 which crashed into the Red Sea killing 148 people, an Egyptian official says. The team retrieved the cockpit voice recorder late yesterday from a depth of more than 1,000 metres. Sources close to the search operation said the impact of the crash had damaged the recorder and separated the signal transmitter from the box. “It’s not in too bad condition. It’s not as good as the first one. It’s a little damaged but I hope the information will still be OK”, Shaker Qilada, head of the Egyptian inquiry into the crash said from the resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, close to the crash site. Analysis of the information from the first box, or data recorder, began today, a day after it was moved to Cairo from the crash site. “As soon as we get the second box back to Cairo, analysis will begin at the ministry”, Qilada said. Search and rescue experts detected a weak signal from the second flight recorder four days after the aircraft, carrying 133 French tourists and 15 other people, plunged into the deep sea off Sharm el-Sheikh minutes after take-off. Qilada said the second box would give investigators a much better picture of what happened on board the Flash Airlines-operated flight. “No one can tell you how long it will take to analyse all the data. It’s a complicated process”, Qilada said. Egypt’s Civil Aviation Minister Ahmed Mohamed Shafiq Zaki said Egypt had the technical means to analyse the data from the flight recorder, while personnel from US aircraft manufacturer Boeing would act as observers in the investigation. Egypt has asserted its sovereign right to command the crash inquiry and has defended its air safety record against allegations that Switzerland banned Flash Airlines from its air space because of safety violations. Zaki said: “If it turns out there was a flaw in the aircraft, we will announce that straight away without any embarrassment”. He said that the Swiss ambassador in Cairo admitted to him that a Swiss official had made a mistake by announcing that Switzerland had barred Flash Airlines. The ambassador, Raimund Kunz, said he could not say the Swiss authorities had made a mistake, but he felt it was “not the best moment” to make such comments so soon after the crash. France has vowed to do all it can to find out why the plane crashed and the search team used a remotely-controlled robot on loan from France Telecom to retrieve the flight recorders, working 24 hours a day since Tuesday (13 January) with the robot. France Telecom said it had not yet been decided if its robot would remain in Egypt to recover wreckage and any bodies that may lie on the sea floor. France says there is no reason to suspect an attack and gives little credence to a previously unknown Islamic group’s claim to have brought down the aircraft.
20 January 2004 –A press report, dated today, states: Investigators say flight recorders from an Egyptian plane that crashed into the Red Sea on 3 January show terrorists played no role in the disaster. “It is very obvious there is no outside intervention of any kind”, the head of the French-Egyptian investigating team, Shaker Qelada, said. “What we are looking at is a classic plane accident. It could be a technical defect or human error or both”. A total of 148 people, mostly French holidaymakers, died in the crash. A French submarine robot retrieved one “black box” flight recorder from a depth of more than 1,000 metres on Friday, and a second one two days later. French investigator Gerard Legauffre said “the first quick reading of the black boxes and the cockpit voice recorder” showed there was no outside intervention. Investigators had previously all but ruled out terrorism. French officials said two weeks ago that it appeared the aircraft had crashed as a result of a sudden loss of power. An operation will now be carried out to bring large chunks of the engines – lying close to one another at a depth of 1,030 metres – to the surface. “It is obvious the plane has not exploded in the air”, Mr Qelada said. He added that the aircraft must have gone “down in one piece” because investigators found very little debris floating on the water. A full analysis of the flight recorders would take time, he said.
27 January 2004 –Large pieces of wreckage from an Egyptian plane were handed to legal officials in Sharm el-Sheikh. Remains of the Boeing 737, operated by charter company Flash Airlines, were recovered by two French robot submarines and brought up from depths of more than 1,000 metres. One piece of wreckage, five metres in length, other bits, some personal effects and a wooden box containing metal parts of the aircraft, were among items brought to shore. The two flight data recorders – known as black boxes – have already been recovered. A French source said the main pieces brought to port today were the control parts of the aircraft, the rudders, hydraulics and ailerons. An Egyptian naval officer, who was at the recovery operation, said “cushions” had been manoeuvred under the pieces of wreckage so they could be brought to the surface without being damaged. The latest pieces will join bits of wreckage recovered earlier, now in a hangar in Sharm el-Sheikh, to help officials find out what went wrong. One of the recovery robots, the Scorpio, is due to leave Egyptian waters today. The other craft will remain for an indefinite period, an official said.
18 January 2004 – Lake Erie, Canada
Search and recovery efforts are continuing for at least nine people believed to have been killed in a single-engine aircraft crash shortly after take-off from a Canadian island in Lake Erie. Canadian rescue officials have discounted the possibility of survivors in the crash that occurred around 09.00 hrs, yesterday, about 1.5km west of Pelee Island, located in the western Lake Erie basin between Cleveland and Detroit. The aircraft belonged to Georgian Express, which has several flights a day between Pelee Island and Windsor. “Unfortunately, this has changed from a rescue mission to a recovery mission”, said Constable Brian Knowles of the Ontario Provincial Police in Kingsville. US Coast Guard officials said the pilot of the Cessna 208 Caravan, which was bound for Windsor, about 56km to the north-west, radioed a frantic call for help shortly after taking off, but controllers lost contact with the plane. A helicopter found the wreckage of the plane about 11.30, AEDT, yesterday. The aircraft was nose-down in the water and surrounded by ice, said Paul Mulrooney, president of Ontario-based Georgian Express. He also said there did not appear to be survivors. A US Coast Guard cutter remained on the scene of the crash overnight, but helicopters were forced to turn back because of snow and low cloud cover. The National Weather Service forecast for Lake Erie predicted winds and snow flurries, with waves building from half a metre to a metre. A Canadian search helicopter was headed from Trenton to the crash scene today “to make sure we haven’t missed anything”, said Capt Dave Elit of the Canadian search and rescue co-ordination centre at the Canadian Forces Base Trenton. Earlier efforts to launch two helicopters from the Trenton base were thwarted by heavy snow. Divers with the Ontario Provincial Police were also expected to reach the crash site today, and a Canadian Coast Guard ship with salvage equipment was being sent out. Knowles said authorities had notified relatives of the nine people confirmed on the flight and were trying to track the last-known whereabouts of a tenth person believed to have been on board. The pilot was from Toronto and the passengers were all from south-western Ontario.
18 January 2004 –The search was called off today for survivors of a commuter plane that crashed into the Lake Erie yesterday evening, leaving ten people presumed dead, eight of whom were men returning from a hunting trip. “No survivors were found at the site, and it is now believed that all ten people on board the plane are deceased”, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada said in a statement this afternoon. A US Coast Guard icebreaker, the Neah Bay, reached the wreckage late yesterday. The plane is in about 24 feet of water.
19 January 2004 –The mission to recover ten remains in the downed Cessna is scheduled to begin this morning, as the province continues to weather some of the coldest winter temperatures on record. The nine passengers and pilot were killed when the single-engine aircraft plummeted into the lake shortly after takeoff from Pelee Island, Ontario, on Saturday afternoon. The pilot made a frantic call for help around 16.30, 17 January. The aircraft skidded onto the ice moments later, before breaking through and sinking. With heavy ice still packing the waters around the sunken aircraft, recovery crews spent most of yesterday plotting how best to bring the aircraft and the victims to the surface, without endangering the lives of the crew. The OPP dive team will plunge into the lake from the deck of Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker Samuel Risley, which was expected to arrive at the site last night. The 1998 Cessna Caravan 208B was lying in about 7.5 metres of water, covered by debris and ice. It is not known if it is in one piece. The Transportation Safety Board said an investigation into the cause of the crash is expected to take several days.
19 January 2004 –A Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker with a team of divers aboard used a robotic scanner to search the icy waters of Lake Erie today for the bodies of ten people killed in a weekend plane crash. The crew of the icebreaker planned to pinpoint the wreckage before sending the half-dozen divers into the 24 feet of frigid water. The cause of the crash is under investigation. The plane belonged to Georgian Express, a small regional airline.
20 January 2004 –Cessna 208 (Caravan 1), C-FAGA, operated by Georgian Express Ltd, while on a flight from Pelee Island, Canada, to Windsor, Canada, with ten persons on board, on departure Pelee Island crashed at 21.39, 17 January. Wreckage was located, in water, one mile west of Pelee Island. All ten persons on board were killed.
21 January 2004 –Recovery efforts for the bodies of ten people who died in a weekend aircraft crash into Lake Erie continued today as police defended the slow pace of the operation. Family members of the victims had expressed frustration a day earlier that the bodies haven’t been located even though the crash happened Saturday (17 January). At a media briefing today, police stressed their commitment to a speedy recovery effort. “We are working very late into the night”, said Ontario Provincial Police Staff Sgt. Doug Babbitt. “Everyone involved is well aware of the frustration the families are experiencing”. Although more debris from the aircraft was spotted today, the main body of wreckage of the Cessna 208 Caravan was not located, police said. Babbitt refused to speculate on whether police would have to wait until spring to recover the bodies. “We’re not the least bit pessimistic”, he said. Recovery efforts have been slowed by ice over the area where the aircraft went down. The Coast Guard icebreaker Samuel Risley has been making its way to the scene since Monday, but it must proceed slowly with the help of a remote-controlled camera in the water to avoid disturbing the wreckage or becoming stuck on the shallow lake bottom. The families of the victims received a briefing today on recovery efforts from Dr. Thomas Wilson, regional supervising coroner for southwest Ontario. “They seemed accepting and understanding of the difficulties involved”, Wilson said. Ten divers are involved in the search, but none have gone into the water to search for wreckage or bodies. “We’re planning if all goes well, starting an additional operation out there, so we’re running two operations at once”, Babbitt said. Two teams of divers would work on the ice at different spots, but it depends on the weather holding, he said. Sunny skies gave way to brisk winds and clouds today, but there were no plans for the Samuel Risley to return to port, Babbitt said. The victims, including eight friends who were returning to Windsor from an annual pheasant hunting expedition on nearby Pelee Island, were killed when their aircraft crashed into the lake shortly after take-off. Investigators have yet to determine the cause of the accident.
23 January 2004 –Efforts to recover the wreckage of a small aircraft that crashed into Lake Erie were temporarily suspended yesterday due to bad weather. The Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker Samuel Risley, which is leading the recovery operation, returned to port to restock supplies and bring in additional equipment. The vessel departed down-bound yesterday evening from the Morterm dock in Windsor heading back to the crash site. Ontario Provincial Police divers have spent all week trying to pinpoint the wreckage of the downed Cessna which crashed Sunday en route from Pelee Island to nearby Windsor killing all ten people aboard. Police say they’re determined to quickly recover the bodies to allow their families some closure. Samuel Risley must proceed slowly to avoid disturbing the wreckage or becoming stuck on the shallow lake bottom. A remote-controlled camera scouting the lake bottom ahead of Samuel Risley is aiding in the search effort. The vessel was also trying to avoid churning up silt at the lake bottom where the wreckage is sitting. Part of the aircraft’s ignition system and bits of the left wing were among the wreckage recovered from the surface of the lake.
21 January 2004 –The crew of a Canadian Coast Guard ship located the main part of the fuselage of a single engine aircraft (C-FAGA) that crashed into Lake Erie, killing all ten people on board, earlier this month, police said today. Searching with sonar devices, the crew yesterday located the Georgian Express Cessna that crashed 17 January just after taking off from Pelee Island.
Crew members were working to determine the best way to proceed with recovery. The crash killed eight Canadian hunters, the pilot and a woman from Los Angeles who was a friend of the pilot. Family members were told yesterday evening that the aircraft had been located, Ontario Provincial Police said in the statement issued today. By yesterday, more than a dozen parts from the aircraft had been recovered from the surface of the ice. Poor weather has hampered recovery efforts. The aircraft crashed in western Lake Erie between Cleveland and Detroit. It was headed to Windsor, about 35 miles to the north-west.
26 January 2004 – Crash, Tashkent, Uzbekistan
Uzbek authorities have paid compensation to relatives of victims of the Uzbekistan Airways Yakovlev Yak-40 which crashed while trying to land at Tashkent’ Airport, killing all 37 on board, an official said today. Families of the four foreigners in the crash were paid a total US$80,000 by a Russian insurance company, said General Prosecutor’s spokeswoman Svetlana Artikova. Killed in the 13 January crash were the head of the UN mission in Uzbekistan, British-Australian citizen Richard Conroy, and Richard Penner, a Canadian aid worker, along with two Afghan businessmen. Relatives of the five crew members on the flight from the border town of Termez will receive a total US$85,000 to be divided depending on their salaries, and another $600 each from the airline, Artikova said. The families of the remaining Uzbek passengers will receive about $1,215 per passenger from two Uzbek insurance companies, funds that will also be paid to the four foreigners’ relatives, she said. Malik Kadyrov, spokesman for the prime minister’s office, said the foreign passengers were receiving far more than locals because a decision had apparently been made to compensate them as if the aircraft was on an international flight. The preliminary investigation of the crash has been completed and a report turned over to President Islam Karimov’s office, Kadyrov said. No details have been released. Last week, Kadyrov said the investigation commission had ruled out terrorism, weather or mechanical malfunction as possible causes – leaving pilot error as the likely source of blame.
27 January 2004 –Pilot error caused a Yakovlev Yak-40 to crash last month, killing all 37 people on board, including the head of the UN mission in Uzbekistan, the government commission investigating the accident said today. The crew of the Uzbekistan Airways aircraft failed to follow proper landing procedures, even though heavy fog limited visibility at Tashkent International Airport at the time. The aircraft, bound from the town of Termez on the Afghan border, overshot the runway and crashed near the airport. Among those killed was the head of the UN mission in Uzbekistan, Richard Conroy. The crew did not actually see the runway at the minimum height required but continued landing anyway, “overestimating its professional skills”, the commission said. Apparently realising their mistake, the pilots tried to climb again. The aircraft crashed into a concrete wall surrounding the airport. The commission said the aircraft was in good technical condition and the crew had been properly trained. Prosecutors have opened a criminal probe, the commission said. Uzbekistan Airways has suspended all flights of Yak-40s since the crash, a measure that remained in effect today.