A Russian passenger plane (Metrojet’s Airbus A321-200) crashed in the Sinai Peninsula Egypt on Saturday morning, 23 minutes after taking off from Sharm el-Sheikh en route to St. Petersburg. All of the 224 people onboard Kolavia Flight 7K9268, 217 passengers (including many children) and 7 crewmembers, were killed and the cause of the crash is still under investigation. Most of those on board the flight were Russian tourists.
The search operation is still going on at the crash site, which presents a tragic scene with many dead bodies, said Mahmoud al-Zanati, head of the Egyptian Civil Aviation Authority.
Images show the plane has broken entirely apart. The Civil Aviation Authority in coordination with Russian authorities is using caution against speculation on causes of the crash. The plane’s flight data and cockpit voice recorders have been recovered from the plane wreckage site by the search and rescue teams who are investigating the debris.
Russia’s air safety agency said the Airbus A321 incident, operated by Metrojet (also known as Kogalymavia), needs to be thoroughly analyzed before other planes will be allowed to resume flights over the same flight route from Sharm El Sheikh to ST. Petersburg.
According to Federal Air Navigation Authority (FANA)/Russian Federation Mr. Alexander Neradko, Russia’s top aviation official, who came forward to make a press statement on Sunday, “[the plane] had broken up at a high altitude […] indicated that it disintegrated while flying high.” The plan was at an altitude of ‘9,450m (had reached a cruising altitude of 31,000 feet), when it vanished from radar screens,’ told the Al Jazeera media network. That was when all communication (contact with the plane) was lost.
After the Metrojet charter flight incident in Egypt, a few airlines (Lufthansa, Air France, Qatar Airways and Dubai-based Emirates) have decided not to fly over the same flight route over Egypt’s southeastern Sinai Peninsula that the Russian plane took before it crashed until there are more details on what caused the plane crash. The airliners want to ensure the flight path is safe and not endanger by terrorists; there is, in fact, an existing flight warning for northern Sinai.
A local affiliate of the extremist Islamic State (ISIS) group said ‘soldiers of the caliphate’ “brought down” the aircraft, but Russia’s transport minister dismissed the claim. In addition, the Egyptian government was fast in ruling out a terrorist attack.
Alexander Fridlyand, an expert who leads a Moscow-based aviation research center, indicated that the plane was likely to have been “hit by a bomb explosion in its luggage compartment,” or the crash could have been caused by a “malfunction in the plane’s power system.” It would not be the first time. Mechanical problems were the cause of another loss for the A320 family; there have been other reported cases in the past with such planes having undergone an emergency landing because of unspecified technical problems, according to the Aviation Safety Network.
Meanwhile, as the causes of the crash are investigated, and to be on the safe side, many airlines, including Dubai-based Emirates are discontinuing flights over the area. Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways will continue operating over most of Sinai although avoiding “certain areas of airspace over the Sinai peninsula.” Only a handful of flights will be affected. Currently, UAE airlines Air Arabia and flydubai have also rerouted flights around Sinai, told The National.
To date, the crash was the deadliest aviation disaster in Egypt’s history. People continue to light candles in mourning for those killed; public buildings flying flags at half-mast across the country of Egypt and Russia.