Russian plane crash: what could have happened?

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Egyptian and international experts have begun their investigation into why a Russian airliner carrying 224 people crashed in the north of Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, killing all on board.
What will be their main lines of inquiry?

Shot down by missile?
Security experts have poured scorn on claims from jihadis allied to the Islamic State (IS) group, who are active in the Sinai area, that they downed Flight KGL9268, but examinations of the aircraft wreckage and debris field will enable investigators to definitively pronounce on this theory.
The jet was cruising well above the maximum range of any surface-to-air missile that the jihadists are thought to possess. These are far less powerful than the vehicle-borne Buk system that shot down Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over Ukraine last year.
Experts have also questioned the logic of why Islamic State’s Sinai affiliate would risk inviting a massive international retaliation by such an action when its battle is primarily with the Egyptian state.
BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner says that with Russia fighting a war against IS in Syria, and Egypt’s fragile economy in desperate need of tourists, both countries will be hoping this has nothing to do with terrorism.

Bomb on board?
Analysing the aircraft’s “black boxes” – the cockpit voice recorder and the flight data recorder, both of which have been found – will help investigators determine what caused it to suddenly plummet from the sky.
No hard evidence has emerged to suggest that a bomb on board the plane caused the crash – and there are questions about how a would-be bomber would evade heightened security measures around Sharm el Sheikh airport – but one expert told the BBC that descriptions of the wreckage indicate that such an event remains a possibility.
Professor Michael Clarke, Director General of the Royal United Services Institute think-tank said: “Early reports said that [the aircraft] split into two and that suggests a catastrophic failure, not a mechanical failure, but that suggests perhaps an explosion on board.
“So I’d be much more inclined to think if we have to guess at this stage, it’s much more likely to have been a bomb on board rather than a missile fired from the ground.”
Again, analysis of the main wreckage site and the debris field will enable investigators to evaluate this theory.
The CVR records the voices of the pilots and other sounds from the cockpit. It retains two hours of recording – on longer flights, the latest data is recorded over the oldest.
The FDR records technical flight data, including at least five basic sets of information: pressure altitude, airspeed, heading, acceleration and microphone keying (the time radio transmissions were made by the crew).
Both recorders are designed to withstand a massive impact and a fire reaching temperatures up to 1,100C for 60 minutes.

Technical fault?
Egypt’s prime minister has said a technical fault was the most likely cause of the disaster, but that it would be up to the air accident investigators “to prove or deny this”.
Egypt’s civil aviation minister Hossam Kamal said there had been no sign of any problems on board the flight, contradicting earlier reports that the pilot had asked to make an emergency landing after experiencing technical problems.
In Russia, the wife of the plane’s co-pilot, Sergei Trukhachev, told NTV that said her husband had complained the plane’s condition “left much to be desired” during a telephone call before the flight left Sharm el-Sheikh.
But the Kogalymavia airline has insisted the 18-year-old plane was fully airworthy, and Hossam Kamal said that “there were no reports that the airplane had faults, the checks done before takeoff did not reveal anything”.

Human error?
The airline has said that the pilot – who reports identified as Valery Nemov – had more than 12,000 hours of flying experience, including 3,860 hours in A321s and that there was no reason to suspect that “crew error” was a factor in the disaster.
But the aircraft’s black boxes will provide investigators with detail on the last minutes of the flight and enable them to deduce whether any actions taken by the flight crew caused or contributed to the crash – which happened during fine weather.

Author: BBC.

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