Russia finds main black box from Black Sea crash jet

Russia has found the main flight recorder from a military plane that crashed into the Black Sea killing all 92 on board, the Defence Ministry said on Tuesday, amid unconfirmed reports that authorities had grounded all aircraft of the same type.

The recorder, one of several reported to be on board, contains information that could help investigators identify the cause of Sunday's crash, which killed dozens of Red Army Choir singers and dancers en route to Syria to entertain Russian troops in the run-up to the New Year.

Investigators have so far said that pilot error or a technical fault, rather than terrorism, are most likely to have caused the Defence Ministry's Tupolev-154 to crash into the sea.

The black box, which was found by a remote-controlled underwater vehicle at a depth of around 55ft (17 metres) and 1 mile (1,600 metres) from the resort of Sochi, has been sent to a Defence Ministry facility in Moscow for analysis.
Ships sail near the crash site of a Russian military Tu-154 plane, which crashed into the Black Sea on its way to Syria on Sunday, in the Black Sea resort city of Sochi

Pescue personnel watch on a pier as navy ship sails near the crash site of a Russian military Tu-154 plane, which crashed into the Black Sea on its way to Syria on Sunday, in the Black Sea resort city of Sochi

A person lays flowers in memory of passengers and crew members of Russian military Tu-154, which crashed into the Black Sea on its way to Syria on Sunday, at an embankment in the Black Sea resort city of Sochi

National and Stavropol region flags fly at half mast to commemorate passengers and crew members of Russian military plane, which crashed into the Black Sea on its way to Syria, in Stavropol

"The casing holding the flight recorder is in a satisfactory condition," the ministry said in a statement.

"After it is technically cleaned in distilled water we will start transcribing it."

The ministry said numerous fragments of the plane had been found, including the engine, the landing gear and pieces of the fuselage.

The Interfax news agency cited an unnamed source as saying Russia had grounded all TU-154 planes until the cause of Sunday's crash became clear. There was no official confirmation of that.

The Defence Ministry says the downed jet, a Soviet-era plane built in 1983, had last been serviced in September and underwent more major repairs in December 2014.

Russian pilots say the TU-154 is still flight worthy, though major Russian commercial airlines have long since replaced it with Western-built planes. Experts say only two are registered with Russian passenger airlines with the rest registered to various government ministries.

The last big TU-154 crash was in 2010 when a Polish jet carrying then-president Lech Kaczynski and much of Poland's political elite went down in western Russia killing everyone on board.

The Interfax news agency, citing a law enforcement source, said a second flight recorder had also been found in the wreckage of Sunday's crash, but not yet raised to the surface.

The Defence Ministry said that search and rescue teams have so far recovered 12 bodies and 156 body fragments.

Black box from crashed Russian military plane found

One of the two black boxes on a Russian military jet that crashed into the Black Sea with 92 people on board has been found, the country's Defense Ministry said Tuesday, according to the state-run Sputnik news agency.

The flight data recorder will be sent to a central research institute in Lyubertsy, where officials hope to get some insight into why the Tupolev Tu-154 plunged into the sea shortly after takeoff from Sochi on Sunday morning.

But it could take two weeks or more just to extract data from the recorder, aviation expert Col. Gen. Pyotr Belonozhko told Russia's state-run RIA Novosti.
"It all depends on the state of the black boxes," he said.
The flight data recorder was found 1,600 meters from the shore at a depth of 17 meters, the ministry said in a statement, as rescuers carry out a massive search operation in the sea.
The other black box -- the cockpit voice recorder -- is still missing.
The ministry has said there are probably no survivors.

Those on board included 64 musicians from the army's official choir, the Alexandrov Ensemble; nine reporters; the head of the Spravedlivaya Pomoshch charity, Elizaveta Glinka; two federal civil servants; and eight crew members.

The choir was flying to Syria to perform for Russian air force pilots during the holiday season, the Defense Ministry has said.
Glinka was taking medicine and other supplies to a local hospital in Syria, her colleague and friend Dr. Sergey Kurkov told CNN affiliate RBC.

The investigation and search
Terrorism was not a likely cause of the crash, Kremlin spokesman Dimitri Peskov said Monday.
Russian Transport Minister Maxim Sokolov said it was assumed the plane had crashed due to technical malfunction or pilot error.

The plane had taken off from Moscow and was headed to the Russian Hmeymim airbase in Latakia, Syria, where Russia has a large military presence. En route to Syria, the plane landed in Sochi to refuel.
Divers found the jet's fuselage about a mile offshore in the sea at the depth of 27 meters, RIA Novosti reported.
Thirteen bodies and 150 pieces of debris have been recovered so far, the Itar-Tass news agency reported, citing a source in security agencies.
About 3,500 people are taking part in the search, while 39 ships and cutters, 135 divers, seven deep-water vehicles and several aircraft have been deployed.

One of crashed Russian military plane's "black boxes" found, officials say

© REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov
Rescue teams have found a flight recorder from the military plane that crashed into the Black Sea over the weekend, according to Russia’s defense ministry.

The ministry said in a statement that the flight recorder was found a mile from shore early Tuesday morning. State television showed footage of rescue workers on an inflatable boat carrying a container with a bright orange object covered in water.

Russia’s Interfax news agency, citing an unnamed source, reported that Moscow had grounded all ageing Soviet Tupolev-154 planes until it understood the reason for Sunday’s crash, according to the Reuters news agency.

All 92 people aboard the Russian military’s Tu-154 aircraft that went down on Sunday are believed to have died when it crashed two minutes after taking off from the southern Russian city of Sochi.

The 84 passengers included dozens of singers from Russia’s world-famous military choir who were heading to Russia’s base in Syria to perform at a New Year’s concert.

About 3,500 people, 45 ships and 192 divers were sweeping a vast crash site for bodies of the victims and debris, and dozens of drones and several submersibles were also involved in the search. On Tuesday, rescue teams had so far have recovered 12 bodies and numerous body fragments, which were flown to Moscow for identification.

Divers found fragments of the fuselage, parts of the engine and various mechanical parts at night, the defense ministry said.

Officials did not announce the cause of the plane crash, but they were anxious to squelch speculation that it might have been caused by a bomb planted on board or a portable air defense missile.

Russia’s main domestic security and counter-terrorism agency, the FSB, said it had found “no indications or facts pointing at the possibility of a terror attack or an act of sabotage on board the plane.”

The FSB said that investigators were looking into bad fuel, pilot error, foreign objects stuck in the engines or equipment failure.

But some aviation experts noted the crew’s failure to communicate any technical problem, as well as a large area over which fragments of the plane were scattered point at a possible explosion on board.

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