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Published On: Tue, Dec 27th, 2016

Black Box of Crashed Russian Tu-154 Recovered 1,600 Meters Off Shore

nsnbc : The flight data recorder of the Russian Defense Ministry’s Tu-154 that crashed early Sunday morning, shortly after takeoff from Sochi International Airport has been recovered. Other parts of the wreckage as well as more human remains of the 92 who were on board the plane bound for Syria have been recovered too. Flights of all Tu-154s could be suspended.

russia_sochi_tu-154-crash_dec-27-2016Recovery operations at the crash site of the Tu-154 continued throughout the night. The primary focus of the operation was the fastest possible retrieval of the plane’s flight data recorder (FDR) and cockpit voice recorder (CVR).

At 5:42 Moscow time a Falcon remote-controlled vehicle detected the flight data recorder at a depth of 17 meters at a distance of 1,600 meters from the shore. The plane has, in other words, crashed into the Black Sea about 4 – 5 kilometers after takeoff from Bolshoi Sochi (Sochi International Airport).

The Russian Defense Ministry stated that the FDR will be delivered to the Russian Air Force Central Research and Development Institute in Lubertsy, in the Moscow region. Specialists there will decode the data on the FDR as soon as possible, reported the Ministry.

As in all air crashes, nsnbc international covers, nsnbc will ask the relevant authorities to make certified copies of the FDR data, the flight plan, the cargo manifest, radar data, audio from air traffic control to air crew communications and other certified data and evidence available to independent media.

russia_sochi_tu-154-crash_2_dec-27-2016Recovery teams found five other fragments of the aircraft at a depth of 30 meters, about 1,700 meters from the shore. These parts include sections of the hull, engines. All of the discovered fragments have been delivered on the shore and are being passed on to investigators.

Recovery workers also discovered one more body of the 92 who perished on board the fateful flight. The body was retrieved by the Epron rescue vessel. All bodies and bodily remains of the victims are delivered to Moscow by military transport aircraft for identification.

Some 3,500 people and 200 pieces of equipment are involved in the operations. This includes the forces of the Russian Emergencies Ministry, the Russian Defense Ministry, the Federal Air Transport Agency, the Russian Health Ministry and the law enforcement agencies.

So far, 12 bodies and 156 bodily remains have been recovered, reported the Defense Ministry which added that the remains of one of the passengers has been identified by the relatives.

There were 92 people on board the aircraft in total, including eight crew members and 84 passengers. Among the passengers was the Executive Director of the Spravedlivaya Pomoshch (Fair Aid) charity fund, Elizaveta Glinka, as military servicemen and nine reporters from Russia’s Channel One, Zvezda and NTV networks.

The plane was also carrying 68 members of the famous Alexandrov Ensemble, an official army choir of the Russian Armed Forces. The ensemble was on its way to celebrate the New Year with the group of Russia’s Aerospace Forces at the Hmeymim air base in Syria. The choir’s conductor Valery Khalilov was also among the passengers.

Will all Tu-154s be grounded?
Tu-154 (archives)

Tu-154 (archives)

A normally well-informed source told nsnbc international this morning that the Russian Defense Ministry discusses the grounding of all of the Russian military’s Tu-154s. Several eyewitnesses reported that the airliner seemed to have trouble gaining altitude, descended towards the surface with an extreme angle of attack and crashed with the tail section striking the water first.

Although official Russian sources say that the age of the Tu-154 does not matter as long as the planes are kept in good working order, the Tu-154 has a troubled past that in many regards is similar to that of the Boeing 727.

Both of these aging three-engine planes are, among many pilots, regarded as dangerously unforgiving and plagued by safety issues. The Tu-154 is notorious for poor safety, crashes and serious incidents.

Between 1970 and 2011 alone, Tu-154s have been involved in 110 “reported” serious incidents, including 69 hull losses, 30 of which did not involve fatalities. The tragic crash on December 25, 2016 adds to that disturbing record.

The Tu-154 was, like the three-engine Boeing 727 developed during the early 1960s. The Russian aviation industry suffered severe setbacks after the discontinuation of the Soviet Union (USSR) and the severe economic crisis during the presidency of Boris Jeltsin.

Tu-154 cockpit

Tu-154 cockpit

Russia’s military aviation industry has since then made a remarkable recovery. However, the development of civilian airliners is still lagging behind.

Moreover, geopolitical developments in recent years have caused the Russian Defense Ministry to be reluctant about the acquisition of European Airbus or American Boeing planes for its military.

The bulk of the Russian Defense Ministry’s civilian aircraft are Soviet-made, and arguably antiquated and dangerous Tu-154s. In July 2016 the Russian aircraft manufacturer UAC announced that it plans to deliver the new Irkut MC-21 passenger jet for Russian and international customers starting 2019. The jet can be delivered with new Russian PD-14 or with American PW14000G engines.

CH/L – nsnbc 27.12.2016

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  1. The Tu-154 operated by the Russian Defense Ministry en route to Syria must be attempting to take off without its flaps and slats extended to proper take-off configuration. The Tu-154’s instability and sudden roll was consistent with known performance of the Tu-154 with the flaps and slats retracted.

    The captain may be continued to pull back on the control column in an attempt to keep the Tu-154’s nose raised, which might have created turbulence over the rear-mounted engines and caused the compressor surges. However, the compressor surges would not have significantly reduced the engines’ thrust, and that the Tu-154’s failure to gain speed was due to aerodynamic drag on the aircraft due to the high angle of attack, rather than a loss of engine thrust.

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