Thursday 19 September 2019

Irish experts fly to Cairo to aid Russian plane crash probe

An Egyptian soldier stands guard as emergency workers unload bodies of victims from the crash of a Russian aircraft over the Sinai Peninsula (AP)
An Egyptian soldier stands guard as emergency workers unload bodies of victims from the crash of a Russian aircraft over the Sinai Peninsula (AP)

Three Irish aviation experts have flown to Cairo to assist investigations into the Russian plane crash over Sinai.

The team will first liaise with Egyptian officials over access to data from the black box flight recorders, which were recovered in good condition, visits to the crash site or first-hand examinations of the wreckage.

The team is attached to the Air Accident Investigation Unit, which was accredited to the inquiry under the Convention on International Civil Aviation as the Airbus A321-200 was registered to a leasing company in Dublin.

It was owned by Wilmington Trust SP Services (Dublin) Ltd and leased to Russian airline Kogalymavia, t he Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) said.

The flight was being operated under a Russian air operator certificate with oversight of safety, operational maintenance and training by aviation chiefs in Moscow.

"In that regard, and in common with all international airlines, the aircraft would have been subject to a continuous safety surveillance programme, including an approved series of checks on a daily, monthly and annual basis," a spokesman for the IAA said.

Along with that, in April and May of this year the aircraft certifications were examined by the IAA as part of its annual renewal of the plane's Certificate of Airworthiness.

"All certifications were satisfactory at that point in time," the IAA said.

The plane reportedly suffered damage from a tail strike 13 years ago but was cleared to fly in subsequent years.

It was operating as flight 7K9268 under the Russian Metrojet brand and carrying 224 passengers and crew from the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh to St Petersburg on Saturday when it crashed 23 minutes after take-off.

The inspection team includes an Airbus-qualified engineer, an investigator who is also an experienced pilot and a third expert who is a regulatory and operations adviser from the IAA.

They will support the Egyptians authorities who take the lead in the investigation and determine access to data, wreckage, crash sites and the release of all other information relating to the investigation.

Russian aviation experts are also involved as the aircraft was being operated from there while France is also expected to have a team as the plane was built there.

The investigation is expected to take months but the preliminary details from the pilots' actions in the final minutes of the flight are expected to be known in days.

The AAIU inspectors were flown to Cairo by the Irish Air Corps.

They were given the task after Irish officials made an offer of assistance under international aviation agreements.

Ireland is a world leader in aviation leasing, with about half of the large commercial jets operating anywhere in the world at any time owned by one of a number of companies with bases in the capital.

Irish diplomats have not altered travel advice for Egypt, where Sharm el-Sheikh is one of only a handful of locations they suggest going to but to exercise a "high degree of caution" while there.

PA Media

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