Metrojet dismisses human factor, malfunction as causes of A321 crash

Photo by Russia's Ministry of Emergency Relief

A spokesman for Russian carrier Kogalymavia (operating under the brand name Metrojet) has dismissed human factor or a technical malfunction as possible causes of its Airbus A321 airliner’s crash in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula on October 31. Speaking in a news conference in Moscow today, the Metrojet representative declined to comment on what might have caused the accident.

Viktor Yung, MetroJet’s deputy general director for engineering support, says the crew may have been incapacitated, and therefore was unable to contact ATC as the aircraft started to lose altitude. Yung also says the airliner may have been subjected to a mechanical influence in flight, resulting in an instantaneous loss of airspeed and an uncontrolled descent.

Commenting on the aircraft’s airworthiness, the Metrojet spokesman said a borescope inspection of its engines on October 26 had not found anything untoward. The airline’s maintenance team inspected the airliner at Sharm el-Sheikh on October 31, detecting no technical problems.

Metrojet says the aircraft underwent heavy maintenance when delivered to the airline in 2012, and again in March 2014. The carrier published the documents that confirm the last C-Check was performed by Turkish Technik HABOM center in Istambul. The last line maintenance check was performed by Metrojet team on October 30.The company representative noted that the airliner, which was built in 1997, had amassed 56,000 flight hours; an A321’s design service life amounts to around 120,000 flight hours.

Asked to comment the demand issued by the national transport watchdog Rostransnadzor that Metrojet’s fleet be grounded until November 2, the spokesman said that the requirement was in fact to check the airworthiness of the carrier’s entire A321 fleet. Two of the company’s four remaining A321s “have undergone thorough inspections and continue operations in accordance with the airline’s schedule”. The inspection on a third one is to be completed by November 2, and the airline’s fourth of the type is reportedly undergoing C-check work in Turkey now.

Earlier, Metrojet announced that the airworthiness inspections would not affect its flight schedule. The carrier’s spokesman told its aircraft had taken turns going through the procedure in between the scheduled flights.

Immediately after the crash, Metrojet instructed all its crews to skirt Sinai Peninsula. Several Russian and international carriers have done the same.

The crashed aircraft (registration EI-ETJ, serial number 0663) was operating flight 7K9268 from Sharm el-Sheikh to St. Petersburg. The debris was found in the north of Sinai Peninsula, near the city of El Arisha. The crash site is reportedly spread over an area of around 20 sq.m. None of the 224 people on board survived. Both the cockpit voice recorder and the flight data recorder have been recovered.

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