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Track deviation was cause of Il-76 crash

Paul Duffy/MOSCOWAlexander Velovich/MOSCOW

THE KRASNOYARSK Avialinii Ilyushin Il-76 freighter which crashed on 5 April, killing all 21 people on board while descending to land at an airport in the Siberian Far East, appears to have crashed because it deviated from its approach track to save running out of fuel, according to early reports.

Air traffic control (ATC) gave the aircraft clearance to descend to 2,950ft (890m) for Petropavlovsk without knowing that it was some 35-40km (19-22nm) south of the normal, 8km-wide approach corridor, says Ivan Levandovsky, head of the regional Federal Aviation Service directorate. The aircraft hit a mountain at about 2,900ft, some 40km from the airport.

Levandovsky says that some of the local radars had been unserviceable and that controllers could not see the aircraft at low altitude on radar anyway because of the mountainous terrain. Actual track has since been determined from military radar.

The aircraft had taken off from Novosibirsk in central Russia for Petropavlovsk in the Kamchatka peninsula with a cargo of 57t of meat. Payload limit was 40t, says Levandovsky, who adds that there were probably unregistered passengers on board. With 1.5h to go having met unfavourable winds, the crew had asked ATC for permission to shortcut the airways routeing, to save fuel. ATC clearance was not given, but the crew may have elected to route direct anyway.

Investigators studying the 7 December, 1995, crash of a Khabarovsk Air Tupolev Tu-154B, which came down 200km east of Khabarovsk, are now suggesting that the most likely cause of the accident was fuel-feed selected from wing tanks on one side only.

The Faucett Airlines Boeing 737-200 which crashed on a night approach to Lima Airport, Peru, on 29 February was lower than its captain believed it to be when it hit a hillside, say accident investigators. Data from the aircraft's cockpit-voice recorder and flight-data recorder reveal that, when the pilot reported the aircraft's altitude as 9,500ft, the 737 was at 8,640ft, about 850ft lower than the minimum approach height.

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