THE ROMANIAN accident-investigation commission is backtracking on early statements by some of its individual members that the crash of a TAROM Romanian Airlines Airbus Industrie A310 on 31 March was likely to have been caused by an onboard explosion.

An official statement now says that the commission " keeping an open mind on whether the crash was caused by a bomb, pilot error or a technical problem". A commission member, Adrei Dan, subsequently made the bald statement: "Pilot error is common." A Romanian pathologist had said earlier that burns and impact damage on some bodies were evidence of a pre-crash explosion. All 50 passengers and ten crew died in the crash, which occurred shortly after take-off from Bucharest.

Meanwhile, the flight-data recorder, downloaded for the Romanian investigators by the UK Air Accidents Investigation Branch, has been returned with its data printouts to Romania.

The official Romanian statement says: "The pilot-to-pilot channel [on the cockpit voice recorder (CVR)] recorded talk...which accorded with that specified in the [checklists] and confirms execution of manoeuvres in a normal succession and on time. The [CVR area microphone] recorded normal noises generated by the coupling and operation of onboard devices and systems and the engine noise without any other special noises."

A Romanian newspaper had reported the co-pilot as saying: "What the hell is going on in the back?" Head of the commission, Sorin Stoicescu, however, says that he had not heard it. "They are all just hypotheses," says Stoicescu, who adds that all the possibilities will be investigated when the evidence has been collected.

Source: Flight International