Se­cond flight recorder re­cov­ered

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - WORLD - By AGEN­CIES in Moscow

The Rus­sian De­fense Min­istry said search teams have re­cov­ered an­other flight recorder from a mil­i­tary plane that crashed in the Black Sea, killing all 92 aboard.

The min­istry said the se­cond recorder was lifted from the seabed on Wed­nes­day. The first flight recorder was found the pre­vi­ous day and ex­perts have started an­a­lyz­ing its data to de­ter­mine the crash’s cause.

The Tu-154 of the Rus­sian De­fense Min­istry crashed into the sea early on Sun­day, two min­utes af­ter tak­ing off in good weather from the city of Sochi. It was car­ry­ing mem­bers of the Alexan­drov Ensem­ble, widely known as the Red Army Choir, to a New Year’s con­cert at a Rus­sian mil­i­tary base in Syria.

The min­istry said 17 bod­ies and Tu-154 jet 223 body frag­ments have been re­cov­ered from the crash site.

In­ves­ti­ga­tors now be­lieve a fault with its wing flaps was the rea­son it plunged into the Black Sea, a source told the In­ter­fax news agency on Tues­day.

The life.ru news por­tal, which has close con­tacts to law en­force­ment agen­cies, said it had ob­tained a read­out of one of the pi­lot’s last words, in­di­cat­ing a prob­lem with the wing flaps: “Com­man­der, we are go­ing down”, the pi­lot was re­ported to have said.

There was no of­fi­cial con­fir­ma­tion of the read­out.

The In­ter­fax news agency sep­a­rately cited an un­named in­ves­tiga­tive source as say­ing pre­lim­i­nary data showed the wing flaps had failed and not worked in tan­dem.

As a re­sult, the ag­ing Soviet-era plane had not been able to gather enough speed and had dropped into the sea, break­ing up on im­pact.

If con­firmed, the tech­ni­cal fail­ure will raise ques­tions about the fu­ture of the Tu-154, which is still ac­tively used by Rus­sian govern­ment min­istries but not by ma­jor Rus­sian com­mer­cial air­lines.

In­ter­fax cited an un­named source as say­ing Rus­sia had grounded all Tu-154 planes un­til the cause of Sun­day’s crash be­came clear. There was no of­fi­cial con­fir­ma­tion of that.

The De­fense Min­istry said the jet, built in 1983, had last been ser­viced in Septem­ber and un­der­went more ma­jor re­pairs in De­cem­ber 2014.

Rus­sian pi­lots said the Tu-154 is still flight­wor­thy, though ma­jor Rus­sian com­mer­cial air­lines have long since re­placed it with Western­built planes. Ex­perts said only two are reg­is­tered with Rus­sian pas­sen­ger air­lines with the rest reg­is­tered to var­i­ous govern­ment min­istries.

The last big Tu-154 crash was in 2010 when a Pol­ish jet car­ry­ing then-pres­i­dent Lech Kaczyn­ski and much of Poland’s po­lit­i­cal elite went down in western Rus­sia killing ev­ery­one on board.

are reg­is­tered with Rus­sian pas­sen­ger air­lines, as ma­jor Rus­sian com­mer­cial air­lines have long since re­placed it with Western-built planes.

ERIK DE CAS­TRO / REUTERS

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