Swiss crash pilots tried to abort
ZURICH, Switzerland -- The pilots of an airliner that crashed near Zurich airport, killing 24 people, tried to abort their landing seconds before the accident, investigators said.
Nine people survived the crash of flight LX3597 last Saturday evening when the Jumbolino Avro RJ-100 from Berlin to Zurich skimmed through trees and smashed into woodland just short of the runway. One remains in critical condition.
Jean Overney, head of the Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau, said that according to an evaluation of the flight recorders, released on Friday, the conversation between the captain and his co-pilot was relaxed but professional just before the plane crashed.
Nothing on the cockpit voice recorder suggested that the cabin crew realised they were flying too low. And there was nothing to indicate any misunderstandings between the crew and air traffic control.
Just after being given clearance to land, the pilot ordered a pull-up, following which an acoustic signal indicated the automatic pilot was being turned off, said the accident investigation office. The co-pilot immediately confirmed the manoeuvre.
"A second later, the cockpit voice recorder began to register the sounds of a crash. A short time after that, the recording broke off," said the investigation report.
Overney said it was premature to reach conclusions on the cause of the crash. But he said there were no signs of any technical problems during the flight.
Among the puzzles facing investigators was why the pilot continued to descend even after the plane had reached the so-called minimum descent altitude -- at which a warning signal sounds.
The crew were initially prepared to land on runway 14, which is equipped with an instrument landing system.
But during the descent, they were told to land instead on runway 28 -- which was recently brought into use for night landings to minimize noise over neighboring Germany. Many pilots have said that runway 28 is trickier, and it doesn't have an instrument landing system.
Responding to media speculation that the plane might have run out of fuel, the investigators said the aircraft had not refuelled in Berlin because it had more than enough for the journey to Zurich.
The crash was the second in as many years for Crossair. A Saab340 headed to the German city of Dresden crashed shortly after takeoff from Zurich on Jan. 10, 2000, killing all 10 people on board.
Saturday's crash darkened plans for Crossair, a subsidiary of the ailing Swissair Group, to take over parts of the Swissair operations in a complicated, government-financed bailout meant to be completed next spring.
The plane was carrying five crew and 28 passengers. Melanie Thornton, a singer with German-U.S. nationality, was among the victims. Two of the three members of the Passion Fruit pop group -- comprising two Dutch women and a German citizen of Spanish origin, all age 27 -- also were killed.
Three prominent Israelis were killed -- the dean of the Hebrew University school of medicine, a world famous specialist in hematology and a Tel Aviv city official.
Officials had to use DNA analysis to identify 17 of the victims. The other seven were identified from dental records.
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