Breaking: FlyDubai 737 Crashes In Russia, Killing All 55 Onboard

Filed Under: Media, Other Airlines

We don’t know a lot of details yet, but news has just broken of a FlyDubai plane crashing in Russia. The FlyDubai 737 was flying between Dubai and Rostov-on-Don, and crashed on landing.


According to the Russian state news agency and CNN, all 55 passengers and crew onboard have died.


The weather at the airport wasn’t especially good at the time. Here are the weather conditions at the airport right now:


As you can see, there were some gusty winds and a low broken cloud ceiling. Of course that doesn’t explain what happened, but it also wasn’t a perfect day for flying.

In between FlyDubai’s first attempt to land and the crash, an Aeroflot plane landing at Rostov-on-Don made three landing attempts before deciding to divert, so it’s clear the weather conditions were extremely unfavorable.

For those of you not familiar with FlyDubai, they’re an extremely well regarded low cost carrier based in Dubai. Much like Emirates, they’re owned by the government of Dubai, and have a fantastic safety record — prior to this they didn’t have any fatal incidents since they started flying in 2008.


The flight was operated by A6-FDN, a five year old Boeing 737-800.

This is believed to be security camera footage of the crash:

My thoughts are with the families and friends of those aboard. What a tragedy. Now to find out what happened…

If you’d like to stay up to date on the latest, I’d recommend following @thatjohn and @AirlineFlyer on Twitter, who consistently do an excellent job consolidating the facts when air accidents do happen. The first mainstream media report I saw on this was from Reuters, which reported that a “Russian passenger jet” crashed. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out where FlyDubai is based, in my opinion…

  1. FR24 data shows that the aircraft went from 104 knots to 197 knots (speed at impact) in under two minutes. Sounds like a stall.

  2. Our thoughts are with them. Everyday countless people take on responsibilities that puts them in harms way. Some fly the plane, some serve you the food and some sit in the seats and enjoy the food and champagne. Some even write blogs after flying and some read those blogs. All are tough jobs. They do this knowing the risk they are taking but do it for this country and progress of mankind for which we will be eternally grateful.

  3. From the information I can find, URRR (IACO)/ROV (IATA) has one paved runway, 04/22. If the translated METAR you published is similar to what was being reported at the time of accident (impossible to know since I can’t find a reliable source for actual time of accident), then 25021G31KT is a negligible crosswind component for a commercial jet and visibility was reported as MVFR. It doesn’t SEEM like weather was a factor. And if that security camera footage does indeed show the moment of impact, that aircraft wasn’t even remotely on a reasonable approach trajectory. In fact the speed and angle of impact give me bone chilling reminders of Colgan Air Flight 3407.

    In the pursuit of my Professional Pilot degree I’ve spent a lot of time researching and analyzing historically major airline accidents as part of a comprehensive SMS and CRM training, including a term paper I’m 3/4 of the way through about the Tenerife tragedy. It’s hard to try and establish a professional detachment from a series of stupid mistakes that lead to the loss of almost 600 lives, and while airline travel has come a very, very long way in the past ~40 years, it still has much to improve. To those who lost friends and loved ones tonight, my heart goes out to you. I hope their lives weren’t lost in vain and that we can learn something from this incident that can contribute to the further improvement in safety for future flights.

  4. A Flydubai Boeing 737-800, registration A6-FDN performing flight FZ-981 from Dubai (United Arab Emirates) to Rostov on Don (Russia) with 55 passengers and 7 crew, had aborted the approach to Rostov’s runway 22 at 01:41L (22:41Z) due to weather and entered a hold initially at 8000 feet, after 30 minutes at 8000 feet the aircraft climbed to FL150. After about 2 hours of holding the aircraft commenced another approach to Rostov’s runway 22, winds from 240 degrees at 27 knots (14 m/s) gusting 42 knots (22 m/s), the crew announced a go around, the aircraft however struck a wing onto the runway at about 03:43L (00:43Z), broke up, came to a rest near the end and to the right of the runway and burst into flames. There are no survivors.

    The aircraft carried fuel for trip, contingency, alternate, final fuel reserve (30 minutes) and additional holding for about 2:30 hours, total fuel for an endurance of about 8.5 hours. The aircraft had been airborne until time of impact for 06:02 hours.

    Russia’s Ministry of Emergencies reported that more than 700 people and more than 100 vehicles have been deployed to the crash scene for search and recovery operations following the aircraft crash. The aircraft struck a wing onto the runway on touch down and began to disintegrate.

    Russia’s MAK (Interstate Aviation Committee, Accident Investigation Board) reported the aircraft broke up and burst into flames upon touching ground, debris is spread over a large area (several kilometers). An investigation has been opened.

    The airline confirmed the aircraft crashed on landing in Rostov, there were fatalities.

    Radar data suggest the aircraft on final approach was to the left of the localizer and just to the left of the left runway edge and corrected to the right while over the runway bringing the aircraft just within the runway edges during the flare.

  5. “Killing All 55 Onboard”

    Lucky, you should update the headline…there were 62 people on board, not 55. There were 55 passengers and 7 crew members.

  6. That video does not look like the crew was at all in control of that aircraft. It went straight in. Doesn’t seem to correspond to the statements being released. Were those the landing lights we see before impact, or was it already on fire? Hard to tell from the video.

  7. This is where I first read the story:

    This is what one Russian pilot had to say about potential causes: Some Russian pilots and aviation experts said the steep descent appeared to indicate that the crash most probably have been caused by a gust of wind.

    “It was an uncontrollable fall,” said Sergei Kruglikov, a veteran Russian pilot, said on Russian state television. He said that a sudden change in wind speed and direction could have caused the wings to abruptly lose their lifting power.

    I have no idea how valid that is though.

  8. @Katerina: Completely valid. Wind Shear is common in the presence of strong downdrafts associated with thunderstorms. When the downdraft reaches the ground the wind spreads out in all directions. An aircraft flying into a downdraft will initially experience improved performance as it encounters a headwind, but as the aircraft crosses through the downdraft it will experience a profound loss of performance as the headwind turns into a tailwind. If this happens close to the ground (Low Level Wind Shear, LLWS) it can, and has, cause the plane to crash.

    Most major airports and commercial aircraft in the U.S. have LLWS detection systems. I don’t know about the rest of the world, however. If no detection system is present the pilots and air traffic control have to rely on other pilots reporting the phenomenon (PIREP). But wind shear is extremely dynamic, sometimes only lasting a few minutes, so wind shear PIREPs are not a reliable predictor.

    LLWS is impossible to forecast or predict, but the presence of thunderstorms indicates the high likelihood such conditions could be encountered. If there were thunderstorms in the vicinity of the airport at the time of the incident that were strong enough to take down an airliner I can’t think of a better reason to divert, unless weather at their alternate was below minimums and nothing else was available within range. It sounds like they were carrying far more than minimum required fuel loads though.

    At this point all we can do is wait and see what the investigators turn up.

  9. Sounds like the pilots lost awareness, stalled and crashed during a go around. Read some of the threads on They aborted the landing, climbed to 4,000 feet and then suddenly crashed into the ground.

  10. The aircraft crashed on the freakin runway. So it was in the initial stages of a go around after a missed localizer approach to runway 22. Likely a stall due to pilot error or icing. The black box airspeed and attitude readings will tell the tale.

  11. 10 minutes before Flydubai Flight 981 was cleared for its first attempt to land, S7 Airlines Flight 1159 and Ural Airlines Flight 2758 landed successfully at Rostov-on-Don Airport. 12 minutes after Flydubai Flight 981’s first aborted landing after which it went into a holding pattern, Aeroflot Flight 1166 from Moscow Sheremetyevo made the first of three unsuccessful attempts to land at Rostov-on-Don Airport within the next 35 minutes before diverting to the nearby Krasnodar Airport, landing successfully there.

    Rostov-on-Don is NOT the easiest airport to land at on an ordinary day. Pilots are advised on their charts when landing at Rostov-on-Don Airport to expect severe turbulence and possible windshear in the final moments before touchdown. It may have been the first time the pilot has been to the Rostov-on-Don Airport.

    After the first attempt was aborted, the pilot flew in a holding pattern over Rostov-on-Don Airport, having circled the Rostov-on-Don Airport 10 times before attempting to land for a second time, since landings in non-designated airports are usually not welcomed by the airline management. Holding for 2 hours is ridiculous, if Flydubai policy was dictating that then I’ll never fly with Flydubai. Flydubai should have diverted after maximum 30 mins holding. The pilot could have been tired after circling over Rostov-on-Don Airport for several hours after midnight.

    The pilot has flown at least three different circles trying to reorient to the runway – possibly due to”disorientation”.

    According to ATC communications published online, before the Flydubai Flight 981 was established on the localiser- the instrument which indicates the center line of the runway when pilot is landing using instruments rather than visually, pilot reported to ATC that in case he would need to make another go-around, he would climb to flight level 80 (2,400 m).

    The pilot then reported that he was established on the localiser and continued his descent. At 5.5 km before the runway threshold, when the Flydubai Flight 981 was at 450 m, it started climbing again. ATC records appeared to show that Flydubai Flight 981was going around moments before it crashed. The pilot reported his intention to abort the landing with “Going around, Skydubai 981”. ATC advised Flydubai Flight 981 to switch to another air traffic controller (“Skydubai 981, contact Rostov Radar on 121.2”). Flydubai Flight 981 acknowledged this with “121.2, bye-bye”, which was its final transmission.

    After aborting its second approach, at an altitude of 1,230 m, Flydubai Flight 981 began a rapid descent with a vertical speed reaching more than 105 m/s and crashed and completely disintegrated about 250m short of the runway. The ball of ignited kerosine confirmed that the Flydubai Flight 981did NOT run out fuel.

    Changing the “pilot flying” (PF) and “pilot monitoring” (PM) roles after the first missed approach has the advantage of the second approach being conducted by a “fresh” set of hands and mitigates the effect of the tunnel vision that often occurs after failed to land at the first attempt.

    Raw data from FR24 shows the aircraft going from a 20 m/s climb to roughly a 30m/s dive within about 5 seconds. Vertical speed of over 100 m/s. If the site data is actually correct, the climb rate seems a little bit high. The pilots completely lost control during the go around and for some reason could NOT not arrest a very-steep descent.

    A Boeing 737-800 “pilot flying” (PF) could inadvertently apply pressure to the control column, trip the auto flight system into CWS (Control Wheel Steering), without noticing and the pilot’s continued pressure on the stick could result in >20 degree dive.

    A manually flown go-around in night / Instrument meteorological conditions and light weight can produce an inner ear acceleration illusion known as somatogravic/vestibular illusion. Longitudinal acceleration can be falsely sensed by a pilot as an extreme pitch-up. The sensation can be overwhelming and cause a pilot to ignore other sensory inputs, forcing the aircraft into a dive. This was a cause factor in
    the Gulf Air Flight 072 – Airbus A320 accident in Bahrain almost 16 years ago,
    the Afriqiyah Airways Flight 771-Airbus A330 crash in Tripoli almost 6 years ago and
    the Tatarstan Airlines Flight 363-Boeing 737-500 crash in Kazan 2 years ago.

    Similarly several US military jets were also lost during the early days of jet aircraft catapult launches from US aircraft carriers. Since instinct to push during the acceleration is uncontrollable, it is very important to have the right hand OFF the “joy-stick” during the launch. More than 12,000 US Navy aircraft were lost including the aircrafts lost in combat, but most of them were lost in just attempting to take off and land on an aircraft carrier.

  12. Some interesting reading over at PPrune

    Vortex Thing

    Join Date: Jan 2003
    Location: Emirates Living – The Meadows
    Age: 44
    Posts: 355

    For the love of god!!! The 2 hours holding is standard FDB operations. We are routinely sent to somewhere we knew we couldn’t get into with little prospect of being able to get into it with boatloads of fuel and told give it a go. If you didn’t then you came under the scrutiny of the chief pilot who had a penchant for bullying crew and making careers untenable.

    9/10 times we would do just that fly 3/4/5hrs get their hold have a look try again if necessary and more times that not we would divert.

    The route they were flying was not one that more senior pilots would ever pick as it is known for crap weather, is captain only landing and its dark o’clock. It was just one of those places that you hoped to not get on your roster and if you did and if you couldn’t swap it then you hoped you had one of those nights where there was a break in the crap weather and you could get in. If not you rocked up with extra stuff as you knew you could easily end up in a hotel.

    FDB heap commercial pressure on crews way past the normal anyone else but if you have your family stuck in the middle east you have a choice do what they ask be it carry lithium batteries, operate outside of FTLs, ignore assaults on crew etc or loose your job and possibly your career.

    It wasn’t that we didn’t know that but most of us just took the money and hoped to not be the crew of FZ981 before we got either enough money/hours/experience in LHS, etc to move to somewhere else.

    The chief pilots favourite saying is “if you don’t like it leave!” it was his solution to every problem given and the culture of fear has eroded the culture of safety to such an extent that most pilots were unlikely torpor anything but the most serious incidents as they knew they were simply raising their heads above the parapet.

    Re the numerous posts from experts on here who have not operated in the Middle east, who have not flown in Russian airspace and who do not know anything about HGS/HUD ops suggest you use the two ears more than the one mouth and though of course you are interested but your conjecture does nothing to help do anything other than muddy the waters.

    FDB never ever do coupled approaches. All CAT3a, CAT2 and CAT1 are manually flown to the ground. All low vis is hand flown. All low vis is hand flown on the HGS. All approaches in Russia are flown on QNH we have LIDO tables with a conversion table on EVRY Plate.

    If you find a pilot in FZ unfamiliar with flying in metres and getting wind in metres per second then they are very very new indeed. There would have been little to no confusion in the crews mind about altimeter settings, when to set or change and wind in mps as it is an almost every day occurrence in Russia and we have/had 18 routes to Russia which is pretty significant.

    What happened, I have a guess the same as any other pilot and more so with other 737 pilots and even more so with 737NG pilots. The factors are facts and everything else at this stage is clearly conjecture. Did they make and error in the GA, was their catastrophic failure of something or other, was it an act of god? That will all come out pretty soon.

    What isn’t conjecture however is that colleagues are dead and the weather was crap on departure, estimated to be crap at ETA, estimated to be crap until way past the point of full tanks and they left with the FDB standard cunning plan of well maybe it will be okay. If you want a fact it is that not many airlines would consider that normal they would simply wait at base until it was at least predicted to be likely and then leave.

    FZ don’t do that why? ask the Chief Pilot. He as an uber pilot and uber human knows better than everyone else he evens knows that black is in fact white and can prove it when called upon to do so and is above the law as demonstrated on innumerous occasions.

    So yes whilst of course factors such as starting a new job etc would have been a factor the reality is FDB take 7 days minimum to sort your visa out when you leave and frequently take longer because we the crew do not matter, were not humans are simply slaves to be abused at their whim so why would looking after us or our families matter. So yes these factors exist but lets be honest we have all heard the tape. They called the GA and did it so the why were they there and why wait so long is simple, that is what NCC demanded they do. Why because the Chief Pilot lets them do whatever they please and refuses to exert any control over what is directly his area of responsibility because nothing is important except his pay check.

    I hope the money is worth it and I hope the families of the departed get to see him face to face, look him in the eye in the full knowledge of how he runs his ship.



    Join Date: Aug 2012
    Location: Dubai
    Posts: 106

    Vortex Thing has it pretty much spot on.

    The flight was loaded with maximum fuel, allowing 6 tons of tankering fuel. This equated to roughly 2 hours of holding time, which fits nicely with the reported facts. This would have been arranged by the company (NCC). The mantra here at flydubai is to hold as long as possible, whatever the weather, in the hope that there will a window of opportunity to land. The company would rather spend money holding than diverting/ delaying or even cancelling a flight.

    The captain had indeed been offered a job with Ryanair, but was not leaving on Monday (as suggested). I understand he was due to start with Ryanair in April.

    I also understand that the captain flew to India the previous night, another long night flight. Whilst I cannot say that fatigue was an issue, he would have certainly been tired. If, like me, you are unable to get an appropriate amount of sleep post a night flight, the next night flight is that much harder. All one has to do is go through the Flydubai thread on the middle east thread and read all the posts regarding fatigue and rostering. You will see that fatigue has been an issue for a few years now, something that the safety department is powerless to do anything about.

    Flydubai lost appx 80 pilots last year alone. The primary reason for the resignations was rostering, as the level of fatigue was simply unmanageable for some. I also understand that we had 21 resignations in January alone.

    Each month, a safety bulletin is released detailing most of the ASR’s for that period. You would be amazed at the amount of fatigue reports submitted. It is truly frightening that an airline can operate with such an unsafe rostering culture.

    I have no wish to speculate as to the cause of the crash, I will leave that to the investigation. However, IF fatigue is found as a contributing factor, I can honestly say that I am not surprised.

    I am just so sad that so many people lost their lives that night and that the investigation is swift and thorough. Flydubai will never be the same again.
    what-to-do is online now

  13. Crews being afraid to call in sick etc, don’t sound good.

    Vortex Thing

    Join Date: Jan 2003
    Location: Emirates Living – The Meadows
    Age: 44
    Posts: 358

    To be fair tatelyle was just being sarcastic. Its a bit like saying that all airlines are like FR.

    They aren’t. I have flown for enough airlines to know that some have a culture that is like FZ and most though unlikely to be awarded medals for being touchy feely are nothing like FZ. FZ is a special type of management. In FR everyone is treated badly and equally badly but it isn’t closeted. You know how it is when you join, it doesn’t change when you are there or when you have left. There were few surprises. However the treatment isn’t personal it is generally just a lack of flexibility, due diligence or care for you and yours.

    However FZ sells itself as something different, it says all the right things to all the right people but poke even a millimetre under the veneer and you find cabin crew so terrified of calling sick that they go to work when they should be in hospital. Back home in Europe you don’t have the chance of your family being stuck with their visa cancelled and or going to jail for a debt incurred by the necessity to have a place to live and school fees to pay upfront.

    Therefore the fact that you may be treated badly is just an annoyance. In FZ it could cost you your liberty and worse yet it doesn’t matter if you are innocent, guilty or otherwise. If JV or KG take umbrage with you, you are done.

    Basically JV could be found standing over the body with a smoking gun in his hand. He would say it was your fault for discovering him about to clean it and blame you for startling him. He would then stop paying you so that you couldn’t testify otherwise just to make sure. He’s a nice guy like that. FZ makes FR look like Virgin!
    Vortex Thing is offline

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