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Mon, Sep 15, 2008

Number Of Theories On Cause Of Russian 737 Downing

Engine Failure, Pilot Behavior Cited As Possible Explanations

Reports out of Russia point to a number of possible causes behind Sunday's loss of an Aeroflot-Nord airliner in the Ural Mountains, that claimed all 88 persons onboard.

In separate reports Monday, The Associated Press called attention to conflicting stories out of Russia... one suggesting an engine failure led to the crash of the Boeing 737-500, the other hinting at suspect behavior on the part of the plane's pilot.

Alexander Bastrykin, the chief of the federal Investigative Committee, told reporters early Monday the airliner's number two (right) engine may have failed, then caught fire, as the plane was on approach to land in Perm.

But statements from air traffic controllers indicate the captain of Flight 821 either ignored warnings from controllers, or may have become disoriented in low cloud cover and reduced visibility conditions.

"I informed the pilot that he has reached a point where he should go down," controller Irek Bikbov told state-run Channel One TV. "He confirmed he was going down but kept climbing."

Bikbov added he then ordered the plane to abort its approach and make a right climb-out... but instead, the plane banked left. When Bikhov asked the pilot whether he had the situation under control, the pilot responded in the positive... but Bikhov says his voice indicated stress.

"He was behaving in a strange manner and wasn't following my orders," the controller added.

Aeroflot-Nord is a regional subsidiary of Russian flag carrier Aeroflot. A spokesman for the parent company said controllers lost contact with the plane at around 0520 local time Sunday, as the airliner flew over the outskirts of Perm.

"As the plane was coming in for landing, it lost communication at the height of 1,100 metres and air controllers lost its blip," the carrier said.

Officials haven't released any statements pointing to a single, definitive cause of the accident.



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