Russia plane crash: Airport reopens as investigation continues

Story highlights

  • Rostov-on-Don airport reopens after crews clear and repair a damaged runway
  • All 62 people aboard a flight from Dubai died during a landing attempt there Saturday
  • The passengers were mainly Russian and included four children, airline's CEO says

(CNN)Russia's Rostov-on-Don airport reopened Monday, but the investigation into what caused a commercial jet to crash there last week is far from closed.

Russia's Emergencies Ministry said one of its planes was the first to land on the airport's runway since flydubai Flight 981 plunged to the ground two days ago, killing all 62 people on board.
    Debris from the Boeing 737 crash has been removed, and crews worked through the night to repair the runway, the ministry said.
    The search operation at the site ended Sunday, with investigators moving on to identifying bodies and pinpointing what caused the crash, officials said.
    Authorities have several theories. But the investigation will take at least two months, state media reported. So far, they've found that the flydubai jet's so-called black boxes were "significantly damaged," and they're working to extract data inside to help determine what happened to the doomed plane.

    Possible causes of crash

    The flight from Dubai was making its second attempt to land in Rostov-on-Don early Saturday when it crashed about 250 meters (820 feet) from a runway.
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    The flydubai plane had aborted an initial scheduled landing and circled for more than two hours in poor weather conditions above the airport. Russian state media reported strong winds and poor visibility at the time.
    Authorities have ruled out terrorism as a cause of the crash.
    The Russian Investigative Committee has said it will be looking at three possibilities: technical issues, severe weather and human error.
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    Specialists from Russia's Interstate Aviation Committee, the United Arab Emirates and France have started inspecting the damaged flight recorders, the committee said in a statement.
    A preliminary analysis of the flight data recorder, which stores information about the plane's speed, altitude and instrument settings, shows it was operating during the flight and recording data until the plane crashed, officials said.
    But the cockpit voice recorder, which records pilot conversations and other sounds on the flight deck, sustained mechanical damage in the crash, officials said. Investigators are still working to extract data.
    Investigators from the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board as well as technical advisers from the Federal Aviation Administration and Boeing are also expected to join the investigation.

    Pilots' experience

    Flydubai CEO Ghaith Al Ghaith told reporters Saturday the plane had passed a comprehensive inspection on January 21.
    The pilots were "quite experienced," he said. The Cypriot captain had flown 5,965 hours, while the Spanish co-captain had 5,769.
    Ghaith said he was not aware of a distress call made.
    As far as the airline knew, he said, "the airport was open and we were good to operate."
    A Russian Emergencies Ministry employee surveys the flydubai wreckage Saturday.

    Crash victims

    Authorities are working to identify the remains of the crash victims, Russia's Transport Minister Maxim Sokolov said Sunday, according to the government news agency Tass.
    Ghaith said flydubai was still contacting relatives of victims and would not release the names of passengers until families had been informed.
    The airline said 44 of the passengers who died were Russians, along with eight Ukrainians, two Indians and one Uzbekistani. Four children were among the victims.
    Flydubai said Sunday it would provide "hardship payments" of $20,000 per passenger to relatives of those killed in the crash to help address immediate financial needs.
    People leave tributes to crash victims at the Rostov-on-Don airport.
    The final compensation amount will be decided after the crash investigation has concluded, Ghaith said.
    In a statement on the airline's website, Ghaith said flydubai was focusing on caring for those affected by the accident and supporting those investigating its cause.
    "We are making arrangements for the families who wish to visit the scene of the accident, to do so," he said.
    Russian state media earlier reported that family members of the victims would receive 1 million rubles (about $15,000) from Moscow.