Saturday, May 20, 2006

THERE WERE NO SHOTS PRIOR TO A320 CRASH Mikhael Baghdasarov Says

AZG Armenian Daily

The owner of Armavia carrier whose plane had plunged into the Black Sea on May 3 morning killing all 113 people aboard, told journalists yesterday that the flight recorders of the A-320 airliner would be given, if recovered, to French Airbus company's experts who are also involved in the crash investigation.

Mikhael Baghdasarov, a Russia-based Armenian businessman, who owns the biggest air company, said flight recorders have to be decoded which only Airbus' experts can do, since only the company has the special clue. He said the company has no information about exactly when the flight recorders could be retrieved from the depth of about 495 meters. Baghdasarov then described rumors that the wrecked A320 carried huge sums of money, that there were shots before it fell into the sea and that the pilot might have died of a heart stroke or a shot as 'nonsense."

He said if part of these rumors were true the captain would have reported it to ground controllers, while the recording of their conversation has no indication of it. He likewise dismissed lack of fuel or unprofessional crew as a likely cause of the accident.

Meantime Russian emergency officials said they continued efforts to recover the flight recorders of the Armenian airliner throughout the night and early morning today. The Armenian aircraft had fallen into the Black sea near Russian resort town of Sochi on May 3 killing all 105 passengers and eight crew members.

Russian officials said rescuers worked in three shifts each eight hour-long. The strong side wind that impeded the operation subsided at about midnight to Wednesday, they said. The deep-water robotic device sank to the seabed between 01:00 till 06:00 am on Wednesday to search for the airliner recorders. Silt on the bottom complicates the work. The video camera and the searchlights get dirty, and the team has to raise the robotic device to clean them. Its sinking takes 40 minutes, and it takes the same time to raise it.

The search groups had a break in the work for some time on Wednesday morning. If the weather does not worsen, the search will continue, they said. The device is capable of lifting fragments of the plane weighing up to 12 kilograms, while the two flight recorders each weighs seven kilograms. According to reports, the flight recorders are at the depth of 496 meters. The distance between them is about five meters.

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