Lightning knocked out autopilot of SSJ-100 that exploded at Sheremetyevo, says watchdog

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© Sergei Fadeichev/TASS

MOSCOW, June 14. /TASS/. The SSJ-100 airliner that burst into flames upon its emergency landing at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport on May 5 had lost communications with air-traffic controllers for some time after it was struck by lightning. The plane’s autopilot also went out of order, according to a preliminary report published by the Inter-State Aviation Committee on Friday.

“After the lightning had struck the plane, the autopilot went out of order, setting off the sound warning system,” the document says.

Also, the pilots tried several times to establish communications with the air traffic controller at an operational frequency but managed to do this only at an emergency frequency, the findings indicate.

After the lightning struck the plane, the onboard flight recorders operated improperly for about 15 seconds, the document says.

“Beginning from 15:08:12, one-off commands and indicators of analogue parameters that are recorded through EIU-100 data concentrator units were improperly recorded for about 15 seconds,” the findings say.

A Sukhoi Superjet-100 belonging to Aeroflot airlines, which took off from Moscow’s Sheremetyevo for Murmansk on May 5, had to return to the airport about 30 minutes after its flight, making an emergency landing and subsequently bursting into flames. There were 73 passengers and five crewmembers aboard the plane. In all, 41 people died in the air crash, and 10 others were hospitalized.

Investigators have opened a criminal case over flight safety violations and breaches in aircraft operation that entailed the death of two and more people through negligence. Detectives are looking into several versions of the incident, including pilot incompetence, a technical failure and unfavorable weather conditions.


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