Metrojet Executive Makes Ridiculous Claim About Crash

Filed Under: Media, Other Airlines

As I’m sure just about everyone has heard by now, over the weekend an Airbus A321 belonging to Russian charter airline Metrojet crashed enroute from Egypt to Russia. All 224 people aboard were killed, which is beyond tragic.

I can’t even begin to imagine what it’s like to lose a loved one in a plane crash. And aside from the terrible loss, it has to suck to not immediately know the cause of what happened. You want closure, and that’s something that often doesn’t come quickly in the event of a plane crash. Heck, we still don’t know what happened to MH370, which disappeared over 18 months ago.

That’s why typically it doesn’t make sense to speculate about the cause of a plane crash. We don’t have access to the full facts, and it’s not fair to to the families involved to turn it into a game. Nonetheless, that doesn’t stop the media or individuals from speculating.

When asked about the cause of a crash days after it happens, airline executives are usually smart enough to say something along the lines of “we don’t know the cause yet, and it doesn’t make sense to speculate; we’ll do everything we can to work with authorities to get to the bottom of this.”

Well, except Metrojet. They’re willing to say with certainty that there’s no way that a mechanical problem or pilot error are to blame.

Via The New York Times:

“We absolutely exclude the technical failure of the plane, and we absolutely exclude pilot error or a human factor,” Aleksandr A. Smirnov, a former pilot and the airline’s deputy director for aviation, told a packed news conference in Moscow.

Mr. Smirnov said that the crash could have been caused by “an external impact on the plane,” although he did not endorse the theory of a terrorist attack either, saying that the investigation would have to determine the cause.

As correctly pointed out by the vice chairman of the NTSB:

“I am surprised that an airline manager, at the point that we are at in this investigation, would make a statement like that,” said Robert T. Francis, a former vice chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board in the United States.

“Without the flight recorders having been read, and without more investigation of the fuselage, which is spread all over the place, I don’t think you can rule out anything.”

Bottom line

While I realize no airline wants to take responsibility for an accident, it’s an extremely low blow for an airline executive to rule out the possibility of any mechanical or pilot fault when a couple of hundred people died. Especially since we’re still lacking the vital data, and the crash happened literally a couple of days ago.

  1. completely inappropriate comment – it’s too bad there’s no linkage (origin, destination, equipment involved) that would bring in NTSB- they have credibility and solid independence, whereas some other national investigative authorities face greater political pressure and this has tainted more than one investigation.

  2. in fairness I would add that a Russian aviation investigator dismissed the company representative’s statement as premature

  3. I have no idea. But they own and operate the plane so it makes sense that they are much close to the situation than people reading secondhand news reports online.
    Whether the information they have allows them to make an informed comment at this stage or not, I have no idea. But I’d leave them to it.

  4. I guess we’ll see, but it reminds me very much of GermanWings– in that the executives were making some strong statements within a day of the CVR being found. The Black Boxes were found very quickly in this case and, unlike the data recorders, they don’t take a 6-month period to interpret.

    Somebody has listened to the CVR recordings already and, based on prior experience, may have some strong-early-on indications of what happened. Us?? We’re just conjecturing, but in this case somebody has a chance of hearing a lot of the evidence already and formulating some educated guesses.

    Everything’s in the hands of the Egyptians too, who likely don’t have as strong a protocols as the French as to who gets to hear what and when… Making it even more likely that the airline’s got some access we don’t.

  5. @ Lucky – with title like this you sound almost as ridicules as this guy from Metrojet. He is guessing what happened (and he has a good reason to hope he is right), while you don’t have any reason to trust or not trust him. Furthermore, as someone has previously wrote, he even might have some information not yet available to the public. Bottom line, you speculating that he is wrong, is the same as him speculating he is right.

    @ Tachyon – so called black boxes ARE data recorders… So dont really get point of your comment

    @ Doug – it looks like you claim that only NTSB is credible in the whole world, and if you read the news, apart from Egypt and Russia (if their credibility is not trusted) there are experts from France and Germany involved. And I am certain they can be trusted as much as NTSB.

  6. @ Thomas — Does “absolutely excluding” sound to you like speculation, especially when the lives of hundreds of people were lost? There’s a difference between “hoping” and making a statement of fact as an authority in an investigation.

  7. It is speculation as much as calling it ridiculous. Please note that I am not saying that he is right, but from my point of view without any evidence and expertise both his and your statement are speculations.

  8. @Tachyon – The CVR/FDR can be downloaded and raw data report generated within a few hours. I just had to do an AOG download on an FDR last Thursday – it was into the shop at 8am and the full report back to us by 2pm.

  9. The Russian airline is afraid of prosecution in the event that their company is found to be negligent. They are just trying to cover their a$$es by building a narrative that exonerates them. I’m surprised that the media gave the statement so much coverage since it came from such a non-authoritative source.

  10. @Thomas

    Uh, right, but the point was that both the Flight Data Recorders and Cockpit Voice Recorders (CVR) were located right away. And, unlike the technical analysis often required to run simulations on the FDR (control inputs, AltLaw selections, and all the sensors like AoA and airspeed) data, the CVRs are readily interpreted by anyone with access and with a pair of ears.

    In case of GermanWings, the airline quickly began hinting at a personnel issue right after they had listened to the CVR– the pounding and screaming by the pilot locked out was a pretty good hit.

    In this case, SOMEBODY has listened to the CVR and, if there is anything useful, likely has developed some theories. And, as @Sean M points out, even getting the raw data dumps is fast these days.

    While I agree with Ben that it is premature to be making comments publicly, it’s also likely that a few ‘in-the-know’ people may have a lot more data than any laypeople do.

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