Aeroflot-Nord pulls 737 over instrument familiarity concerns

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Russian carrier Aeroflot-Nord has temporarily suspended operations with a Boeing 737-300 because its instrument panel includes indicators similar to those on the 737-500 lost in an unexplained fatal accident in Perm.

The airline says the cockpit of the aircraft, registered VP-BKT, features "special" director-indicator pointers on complex flight-control and navigational instruments.

"This could be one of the factors that led to the tragic event," says the carrier.

Investigators have yet to determine the reasons for the 14 September loss of the Aeroflot-Nord 737-500, during a night-time approach to Perm, which killed all 88 occupants on the jet.

Aeroflot-Nord says Russian federal air transport agency Rosaviatsia's chief, Yevgeny Bachurin, has ordered the suspension of flights by specific aircraft until crews have been fully trained on the instruments in question.

The carrier's affected 737-300, according to Flight's ACAS database, is owned by Sojitz Aircraft Leasing - the same company which owned the 737-500.

"Flights by [this aircraft] will remain in the schedule but will be carried out by other aircraft in the airline's fleet," says the carrier.

Aeroflot-Nord adds that it has decided to replace the instrument, and will make appropriate arrangements with Boeing.