On Saturday night, 19 March 2016, a flight FZ981 operated by UAE's low-cost carrier flydubai crashed at the airport of a Russian city Rostov-On-Don, killing all 62 persons on board.
A scheduled flight from Dubai to Rostov-On-Don departed from Dubai International Airport at 22:20 local time (18:20 UTC) on 18 March 2016. The aircraft was scheduled to reach the destination point at 1:20 local time (UTC+3) on 19 March 2016. At 1:38 the aircraft commenced final approach to Rostov-On-Don airport, but 4 minutes later the pilots aborted the first approach at approx. 525 m (1725 ft). At 2:27 flydubai's Boeing 737-800 entered holding pattern at 4572 m (15 000 ft) to the southeast of the airport and leaves the pattern for a second approach at 3:28. Twelves minutes later, at 3:40 the pilots aborted the second approach at 472 m (1550 ft) and 5.6 km short of the runway. At 03:41 the aircraft disappeared from the radars and impacted terrain after a steep descent from 1211 m (3975 ft). The airplane completely disintegrated 253 m (830 ft) left of the runway, killing all 62 people on board.
With approx. 178 seats, the Boeing 737-800 aircraft (Reg No. A6-FDN) was carrying only 55 passengers and 7 crew members. Among the victims: 44 Russians, 8 Ukrainians, 2 Indians and 1 Uzbekistani as well as cabin crew members from Russia, Spain, Seychelles, Colombia and Kyrgyzstan. The aircraft was piloted by a Cypriot Pilot-in-Command and Spanish co-pilot with 5965 and 5769 hours of flying time respectively.
While it is still too early to state a certain reason why the aircraft crashed, the investigation team holds to two main versions - a pilot error in deteriorating weather conditions or technical failure. The investigation is headed by the Interstate Aviation Committee (the supervising body overseeing civil aviation in the Commonwealth of Independent States) with participation of representatives of aviation authorities of the United Arab Emirates (the state of the aircraft's registration and operator), the United States (the state of the aircraft's production) and France (the state of the engines' design). Local emergency services have already found both flight recorders and passed it to the accident investigators for the analysis of the flight data.
During the night, the services reported that the wind speed ranged from 14–22 m/s (31–49 mph). Prior to the crash, Air Traffic Controller informed the pilots that the wind speed is 12 m/s (27 mph) with gusts up to 18 m/s (40 mph). The reported visibility - 3500 m (11 500 ft). In addition, there were reports of a rare weather phenomenon - low-altitude jet stream with a wind speed above 30 m/s. The stream was observed at 629 m height (usually, it's observed only above 5000 m (16 400 ft).
Vasily Golubev, the governor of the Rostov region, said that a strongly gusting wind, approaching a hurricane level, may have caused the accident. A sudden gust of wind could be particularly dangerous at low altitude while the plane is flying slowly at low power and the pilot is throttling up the engines to make another landing attempt.
Despite difficult weather conditions, Rostov-On-Don airport was operating during the night. Two aircraft - Airbus A319 and A320 - landed at the airport after their first approaches at 1:23 and 1:28 local time respectively. However, a flight SU1166 from Moscow after three failed attempts diverted towards Krasnodar. As stated by Aleksandr Neradko, the Head of the Russian civil aviation authority Rosaviatsya, the decision whether to land or not is always up to the aircraft's captain.
Established by the Government of Dubai, the carrier is a low-cost airline connecting the emirate with 95 locations worldwide. flydubai operates an all-Boeing 737-800 fleet with an average age of just 3.4 years. The crashed aircraft had its first flight on 21 December 2010. The crash is the first fatal accident for flydubai since the start of its operations back in 2009. During a special press conference, the company's CEO, Ghaith Al Ghaith shared his condolences to the victims' relatives and added that the company's team is contacting the family members to offer any help needed. The company's Emergency Response Team has also left for the crash scene to aid the investigation.
Russia's transport oversight body Rostransnadzor declared it will conduct ramp inspections of flydubai's aircraft and pilots flying to Russia. Rostov-On-Don airport is closed at least until 21 March, Monday. According to the Russian Transport Minister, the runway didn't suffer any substantial damage, the removal of the aircraft wrecks will require 10 hours. Approx. 800 people are involved in the works. flydubai's return flight to Dubai (FZ 8984) departed from Krasnodar at 18:35 local time (21:25 UTC) with at least 50 out of 140 passengers are reported to have refused the flight. The FZ 8984 successfully landed at 23:44 local time.
CEO of flydubai holds press conference on flight FZ981 accident
BREAKING: Moment of FlyDubai plane crashing in Rostov-on-Don(Unverified video)