Last updated: 11:06 AM ET, Mon November 02 2015

Russian Metrojet Flight Broke Apart at High Altitude

Impacting Travel | Michael Isenbek | November 01, 2015

Russian Metrojet Flight Broke Apart at High Altitude

Photo via Twitter/GeorgeHatcher

As Russia mourns, experts and search teams are on the scene of the Metrojet Flight 7K9268 crash in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. They are looking for pieces of the Russian aircraft and recovering the bodies of the 224 passengers and crew who died, as the investigation into the cause of the crash commences, the Associated Press reported.

The Airbus A321-200 was at 31,000 feet, just 23 minutes into a flight from the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh to St. Petersburg, Russia, when, according to Alexander Neradko, head of Russia's federal aviation agency, it broke up at high altitude, scattering wreckage over six square miles, the AP said. Neradko, who is part of a multi-agency team inspecting the crash site, would not speculate about the crash’s cause, due to the ongoing investigation.

As the AP revealed, there seems to be differing perspectives on the aircraft’s condition prior to takeoff.

An Egyptian ground service official who was part of the crew who conducted the preflight inspection told the news service, "We are all shocked. It was a good plane. Everything checked out in 35 minutes," the official, who remained anonymous because he wasn’t allowed to talk to the media, added that the closest this jet came to trouble was three months ago when the pilot aborted takeoff due to a system error. "That's almost routine though," he said.

However, as reported yesterday by the AP, Russian TV quoted co-pilot Sergei Trukhachev’s wife, who said their daughter "called him up before he flew out. He complained before the flight that the technical condition of the aircraft left much to be desired."

An Egyptian official had said, per the AP, that the pilot told air traffic controllers that he was having technical trouble and was going to attempt a landing at the nearest airport before contact was lost.

Then there are theories that the Metrojet flight was brought down by malicious action.

Alexander Fridlyand, expert and head of Moscow’s aviation research center, said in a televised interview, per the AP, that the plane’s sudden drop in altitude could mean a bomb exploded in the luggage compartment.

A local Islamic State affiliate did make a statement on social media that they had “brought down” the aircraft. But as the AP explained, there was no supporting evidence provided, and the militants are not known to have the capability to take down a plane at cruising altitude.

Fridlyand also presented the possibility that the plane’s power system malfunctioned, which could have caused a fire or both engines to shut down, the AP said.

Alexander Smirnov, Metrojet's deputy director, countered this, saying on TV, per the AP, "An engine failure doesn't lead to catastrophe,” he asserted on television. Smirnov called the A321 “reliable” and said automatic systems would compensate for crew mistakes.

But Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi insisted the cause of the crash might not be known for months.

"It's very important that this issue is left alone and its causes are not speculated on," he told a group of top government officials, military members and security forces. The investigation "will take a long time" and "needs very advanced technologies," he said, according to the AP.

Meanwhile, Lufthansa, Air France, Emirates and Qatar Airways have announced that their jets will not fly over the crash area until the cause is known, according to the AP.

Sunday saw Russia's air-safety regulator order Moscow-based Metrojet to suspend flights temporarily, the AP said. But Metrojet is continuing to operate the six remaining A321s, saying, per the AP that this order meant each jet would be checked individually and allowed to keep flying if it passed inspection.


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