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Fri, Sep 19, 2008

Investigators Rule Out Engine Failure In Aeroflot-Nord Accident

Airline Disowned By Russian Flag Carrier, Now Goes By Former Name

Investigators said Thursday that both engines on a Russian airliner crashed Sunday in the Ural Mountains were operating at time of impact... contradicting early witness reports stating one of the engines was on fire.

The Associated Press reports Russia's Interstate Aviation Committee found no signs of an engine fire in the wreckage of the Boeing 737-500, which crashed as it approached to land in the city of Perm. The accident killed all 88 people onboard the Aeroflot-Nord flight.

"There is no indication of an engine fire or the aircraft breaking up in the air," said the investigatory committee. "Both engines were working until the plane hit the ground."

Having ruled out an apparent engine problem, the focus of the investigation has shifted to an air traffic controller's claims the 737's pilot acted strangely in the moments leading up to the crash.

Irek Bikbov told Russia's Channel One network earlier this week the pilot disobeyed instructions as the plane was on final approach to land in Perm. As ANN reported, Bikbov says the 737 climbed after he told the pilot to descend, and that the aircraft turn in the wrong direction after going missed on the first approach. The jet crashed shortly after.

The pilot, whose name has not been released, reportedly told Bikbov all was normal onboard the plane. Investigators hope the plane's cockpit voice and data  recorders -- both heavily damaged in the fiery crash -- may still shed light on what was happening in the cockpit during the flight's final moments.

The Barents Observer reports the accident aircraft was 17 years old, and had previously been owned by an unnamed Chinese entity.

In related news, Russian flag carrier Aeroflot disowned its former subsidiary Monday, less than 24 hours after the accident. The airline is now known as Arkhangelsk Airlines (AVL), its former name before Aeroflot absorbed the regional airline in 2004.

Aeroflot maintains the decision to cut AVL loose was made last week, prior to the accident. The carrier now faces an uncertain future; the Aeroflot-Nord Web site does not reflect the name change as of yet.

FMI: www.mak.ru/english/english.html, www.aeroflot-nord.ru/english/

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