Electrical fire, lightning, or criminal act? Aviation experts on likely cause of Russian plane crash

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Electrical fire, lightning, or criminal act? Aviation experts on likely cause of Russian plane crash

As investigators begin to piece together what happened to the Sukhoi Superjet 100 that crash-landed in Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport, two aviation experts told RT that certain possibilities can’t be ruled out.

Aeroflot Flight SU1492 left Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport on Sunday, bound for Murmansk. However, the plane returned to the airport and crash-landed in a flaming wreck after pilots reported an emergency.

Aeroflot and Russia’s Investigative Committee have both launched probes into the incident, and a number of theories have begun to circulate, among them that the plane was struck by lightning.

“It’s plausible but unlikely,” aviation safety assessor Jacques Astre told RT. Although thunderstorms had been reported in the area earlier on Sunday, “Airplanes are designed to withstand lightning strikes,” he explained. “Sometimes there is damage, but it’s very minor and not to the extent that it could cause the loss of the aircraft.”

Astre reckons it’s “very likely” that the fire began with an electrical fault. That view is shared by Sultan Hali, a former senior officer with the Pakistani Air Force and a veteran aviator.

“The usual culprit is electronic cables short-circuiting, so this could very well be an electronic fire caused by that,” he told RT. Hali added that an electrical fire is one of “the most horrifying” things that a pilot can experience, as it can bring down communications capability.

“If you have lost total communication then you are on your own,” he added.




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Before declaring a mayday emergency, the Sukhoi’s crew had declared a radio failure, before circling Moscow and landing hard back at Sheremetyevo.

As seen in shocking video footage, the plane touched down hard and skidded along the runway, trailing a massive fireball and spewing out plumes of black smoke. The plane’s undercarriage collapsed as it ground to a halt on the tarmac.




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Astre suggested that the enormous fireball could have been a result of the hard landing, as it was reported the plane hit the ground three times before staying down. “Viewing the video, it appears to me from the flames and the smoke, that maybe the plane landed hard, compromising the fuel tanks.”

Leaked CCTV footage seems to back-up Astre’s claim, and shows the plane repeatedly smacking the runway before bursting into a massive fireball.




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Hali added that a jet’s undercarriage would not normally collapse had it not been already weakened by “severe” fire. The retired aviator added that, with little yet known about the incident, “the possibility, however faint it may be, of criminal activity cannot be ruled out.”

Both experts gave kudos to the fire crews and emergency personnel who extinguished the blaze and treated the injured. They also paid tribute to the Aeroflot crew who managed to keep their cool and evacuate the majority of the plane’s 78 passengers. “This was a very serious emergency and everybody’s training kicked in at the right time,” Astre said.

Investigators have reported that of the plane’s 78 passengers, only 37 survived. Earlier, the Russian Investigative Committee confirmed that 13 people, including two children, had died. Seven more were injured in the tragic incident, with three in serious condition in hospital. Two of those hospitalized are women with severe burn injuries.

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