FlyDubai’s Boeing 737 had full safety check only two months ago

The unusual amount of time taken to land the aircraft by its Russian pilot and Spanish co-pilot, both experienced with more than 5,700 flying hours each, is to form a key part of the investigation.

DUBAI // A full safety check on the five-year-old FlyDubai Boeing 737 was completed on January 21 by a Jordanian aircraft maintenance company, crash investigators said on Saturday.

The unusual amount of time taken to land the aircraft by its experienced Cypriot pilot and Spanish co-pilot – both with more than 5,700 flying hours – will be a key part of the investigation.

Air crash investigators from the UAE, Boeing and the National Transport Safety Board flew to Moscow before a mission to the crash site at Rostov-on-Don airport.

Ismail Al Hosani, assistant director-general for air crash investigations at the General Civil Aviation Authority, refused to confirm reports in Russia that the black box recorders were recovered.

“We still have not received anything from the investigation authority in Russia,” he said. “I’m very confident that the black boxes will be found and we can recover all of the data. Until we have that data, everything else is speculation.”

Officials could not confirm if the unusual angle of the aircraft’s descent had any bearing on the crash.

They did not say if aircraft were diverted away from the airport before Flight FZ981 tried to land or if a distress signal had been sent by the pilot before he attempted to land a second time. The chief executive of FlyDubai, Ghaith Al Ghaith, said the airline’s priority was the families of the deceased.

“I would like to express the devastation we all feel in the UAE in relation to this tragic event,” he said.

“Everyone in our company is in deep shock, and our hearts go out to all of the loved ones of those involved. We are still in the process of gathering all information we possibly can, but at this stage, we can only share what limited information that we have.

“I am personally leading our accident response with support of the full management team. At this stage, the focus is on establishing the facts surrounding the incident and providing all possible support to the authorities.”

Prior to attempting to land the aircraft at Rostov-on-Don in high winds and reduced visibility, no emergency call was sent out from the crew, officials in Dubai said.

“We have not seen anything to suggest that a diversion to another airport was on the cards,” Mr Al Gaith said.

“Like any other investigation, this will take time until all of the facts have been collected. Before we make any comment, we have to be 100 per cent sure of the facts.

“We are all bound and guided by the rules that govern this investigation. If a place, aircraft or certain operational sequence is not safe, you cannot operate, this is what we do know.

“As far as we are concerned, we follow the highest safety and standard of security on each of our flights. From what I can see there was no distress call.”

nwebster@thenational.ae

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