DUBAI // A FlyDubai airliner crashed in southern Russia on Saturday, killing all 62 people on board.
Flight FZ981 left Dubai International Airport at 10.37pm bound for Rostov-on-Don, about 950 kilometres south of Moscow.
The crash at the port city occurred almost seven hours later, after the pilots had aborted one attempt to land in hurricane-force gusts, and went into a holding pattern for several hours before a second attempt.
The 2011 model Boeing 737 missed the runway, split into pieces and burst in a fireball, with debris scattered up to 1.5km away.
FlyDubai said 55 passengers – 33 women, 18 men and four children – were on board FZ981. There were 44 Russians, eight Ukrainians, two Indians and an Uzbeki.
The seven crew, five of them women, consisted of the Cypriot and Spanish pilots – who had almost 6,000 hours of flying time each – another Spaniard, a Russian, a Kyrgyzstani, a Seychellois and a Colombian.
Cypriot president Nicos Anastasiades identified the pilot as Aristos Socratous, 38, from the southern coastal town of Limassol. Mr Anastasiades expressed his “shock and deep sorrow”.
Russian media reports said most of those killed were tourists returning home.
The two pilots had almost 6,000 hours of flying experience each, and the plane had undergone a full safety check two months ago, FlyDubai said.
Ghaith Al Ghaith, the chief executive of FlyDubai, said it was too early to say for certain what had caused the crash, but tried to head off any speculation that it was an act of terrorism.
He said the two black box flight recorders had been found by recovery crews.
“On behalf of everyone at FlyDubai, I would like to express the devastation we all feel in relation to this morning’s tragic events in Rostov-on-Don,” Mr Al Ghaith said.
“Our primary concern is for the passengers and crew involved at this tragic time.
“We do not yet know all the details of the incident but we are working closely with the authorities to establish precisely what happened.”
The state news agency Tass said there were winds of up to 22 metres a second at the time of the crash, and heavy rain.
Other flights had yesterday been diverted to Krasnodar airport, which is 300 kilometres south of Rostov-on-Don.
* With Associated Press