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Thu, Feb 26, 2009

Reports: Pilots Among Victims Of Turkish Airlines Accident

Plane Impacted At Extreme Nose-Up Attitude, Little Forward Motion

Turkish news reports state five airline employees, including three pilots, were among the nine fatalities from Wednesday's downing of a Turkish Airlines 737-800 while on approach to the runway at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam.

Citing local media reports, the Times of London said Thursday pilots Captain Hasan Tahsin Arisan, Murat Sezer and Olgay Ozgur were killed when the Boeing narrowbody impacted a muddy field two miles from the runway at 10:30 am local time Wednesday. Witnesses say the aircraft came down at an extreme nose-up attitude and with little apparent forward momentum, with the empennage striking the ground first.

The tail assembly separated on impact from the fuselage, ahead of the vertical stabilizer. The forward section appears to have came down hard, with a second fuselage break forward of the wing box. Photos from the scene show the plane's forward section largely separated, and canted about 20 degrees to the right relative to the center section.

There was no post-impact fire, a circumstance officials say allowed 125 of the 134 passengers and crew reported onboard the flight from Istanbul to evacuate the plane. At least 84 of those survivors were injured, with six still listed in critical condition.

Investigators retrieved the aircraft's flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder late Wednesday. Both "black boxes" have been sent to Paris for analysis, said Dutch Safety Board spokesman Fred Sanders.

The spokesman theorized the relatively low casualty count "may have something to do with the fact that it came down in a muddy field rather than on a concrete road or on a landing strip, where sparks would have increased the chances of a fire." Sanders also said the aircraft appears to have "lost its forward momentum, that there was no motor function."

Turkish media strongly criticized the country's government and the airline for their handling of the accident. Both entities initially said all 134 persons onboard the plane had survived. The Hava-Is union, which represents workers at Turkish Airlines, said Wednesday "the respectability of the airline and the whole aviation sector was damaged" by those first reports.

"In our sad condition our only consolation is that the total loss of life and the number of injuries are fewer than expected in such an accident," said Turkish Airlines president and CEO Temel Kotil on Thursday. "We offer our condolences to the families and friends of the passengers and crew members who lost their lives and a speedy recovery to those passengers who are being treated for injuries. We pray for the souls of the deceased to rest in peace."

FMI: www.safetyboard.nl, www.ntsb.gov, www.thy.com

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