Russian PM Medvedev orders review of safety procedures after plane crash | News | DW | 21.03.2016
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Russian PM Medvedev orders review of safety procedures after plane crash

Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has said he'd be prepared to consider changes to Russian aviation rules if an investigation into the FlyDubai plane crash were to highlight any shortcomings.

As the official probe begins into the crash in southern Russia's Rostov-on-Don airport, which killed 62 people, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev asked officials to conduct a broader review of the accident's cause, with an eye towards reforming procedures, rules or equipment in Russia.

"If there are some technological issues, then they should be analyzed and, at the conclusion of that analysis, proposals should be made to the government so that some amendments can be made to technical equipment, if that's needed, or to the rules that exist in our country's aviation," Medvedev said.

However, the prime minister was careful to stress that it was still "too early to draw even preliminary conclusions." Should the investigation find that "technical issues" were to blame, Medvedev said, then the Russian government could reform air transport regulations accordingly.

The FlyDubai Boeing 737-800 jetliner burst into a ball of flames upon impact on the airport tarmac at Rostov-on-Don before dawn on Saturday. All 55 passengers and seven crew members were killed.

The plane, perhaps an engine, appeared to be on fire before it crashed-landed on the airport tarmac. Scraps of the pulverised plane had to be cleared away, and the giant crater filled before flights could resume.

Voice recorder damaged

The investigation into the crash itself has gotten off to a bumpy start. The airplane's flight data recorder survived largely intact, but the cockpit voice recorder - which should record the pilots' final conversations before the crash - was badly damaged and needs to be restored.

Officials say that process could take weeks, according to Sergei Zaiko, deputy chairman of Russia's Inter-State Aviation Committee which is investigating the crash.

"In favorable circumstances, we will get preliminary results in a month," he said.

The cause of the crash remains unclear. Nothing has been ruled out, but terrorism appears unlikely - with pilot error or technical failure in difficult weather conditions considered the more likely explanation.

One of the central questions that investigators will have to grapple with is why the plane even attempted to land amid fierce winds and rain, after circling for more than two hours. At least one other plane, and perhaps two, diverted to another airport more than 100 miles away.

That will turn investigators' attention towards cockpit discussions, as well as conversations between the pilots and the control tower.

Meanwhile the airport in Rostov-on-Don about 600 miles south of Moscow reopened on Monday morning. Departures were generally taking off on time, but arrivals were facing delays.

Russia's aviation agency defended the safety of the runway and the facilities at Rostov-on-Don and dismissed suggestions casting blame on the air traffic controllers.

bik/msh (Reuters, AFP AP)

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