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A piece of the crashed plane in a field east of Moscow
Image: Reuters

Russia plane crash likely caused by frozen speed gauge

February 13, 2018

The fatal crash of the Saratov Airlines flight is the second major commercial plane crash blamed on frozen pitot tubes. The plane's captain reportedly chose not to have the aircraft undergo a de-icing procedure.


Officials investigating the crash of a Russian passenger plane said on Tuesday that an iced-up speed indicator was probably to blame for the tragedy. The collision occurred shortly after takeoff on Sunday, killing all 71 aboard.

According to the Russian Interstate Aviation Committee, frozen pitot tubes (speed probes) were likely providing the pilots with "wrong data about flight speed."

Russian jet crashes near Moscow

The flight for Russian domestic airline Saratov Airlines plummeted about 40 kilometers (25 miles) east from its takeoff point at Moscow's Domodedovo airport. The Antonov An-148 aircraft had been en route to the city of Orsk, near the border with Kazakhstan. None of the six crew members or the 65 passengers survived the crash.

Earlier reports suggested that the captain had decided not have the plane de-iced before departure, despite Moscow experiencing its heaviest snowfall in a century over the past week.

This is not the first time frozen pitot tubes have been blamed for a deadly commercial plane crash. In 2009, Air France Flight 447 from Rio de Janeiro to Paris crashed into the Atlantic Ocean, killing all 228 people on board in an incident blamed on poor crew communication and iced-up speed gauges.

The Emergency Situations Ministry said that recovery work "is being conducted around the clock," to retrieve the remains and identify them. The families of each victim will receive the equivalent of about $50,000 each, the ministry added.

es/kms (AFP, dpa)

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