The black box of the Russian military plane which crashed in the Black Sea on Christmas Day has been recovered and brought to Moscow.
The Tupolev Tu-154 plane came down with the loss of all 92 passengers and crew. At least 12 bodies have been recovered from Black Sea so far.
The aircraft was carrying the Alexandrov military ensemble due to give a concert for Russian troops in Syria, and journalists and military personnel.
The cause of the disaster is still being investigated but there is no suggestion of a terror attack.
According to Russia’s defense ministry, numerous fragments of the plane have been found, including the plane’s chassis and one of its engines.
The plane crashed soon after take-off from an airport near Sochi, where it had landed for refueling.
Image source WIkimedia
The aircraft disappeared from radar two minutes after taking off from Adler airport at 05:25AM local time on Christmas Day, heading for Latakia in Syria.
It was carrying 64 members of the famed Alexandrov military ensemble, as well as one of Russia’s best-known humanitarian figures, Yelizaveta Glinka, known as Dr. Liza, executive director of the Fair Aid charity.
The black box was found by a Seaeye Falcon underwater remotely operated vehicle at a depth of 56ft, 5,000ft from the shore, the Russian defense ministry told Russia’s Ria-Novosti news agency.
A military spokesman said the recorder was in a “satisfactory condition”.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu described the crash as a “horrible tragedy” and said everything was being done to establish the cause.
It is believed that the location of a second black box has also been established and it could be recovered shortly.
Transport Minister Maxim Sokolov reiterated that investigators were looking into whether pilot error or a technical fault might have brought down the aircraft.
A source close to the investigation told Interfax the plane may have been overloaded.
“Witness accounts and other objective data obtained during the investigation suggest the plane was unable to gain height and for some reason – possibly overloading or a technical fault – crashed into the sea,” the unnamed source said.
According to an Aviation Safety Net report, the plane made a U-turn back towards the coastline shortly after take-off, before disappearing off the radar.
However, an audio recording played on Russian media and said to be of the final conversation between air traffic controllers and the plane reveals no sign of any difficulties.
Voices remain calm until the plane disappears and the controllers try in vain to re-establish contact.
The plane involved in the crash was an old model no longer flown by air lines in Russia but still used by the military. It was 33 years old.
Ukrainian separatists have handed over two flight-data recorders from the downed MH17 plane to Malaysian experts.
The handover came hours after the UN Security Council voted unanimously to demand immediate international access to the crash site.
EU foreign ministers will consider more sanctions against Russia on Tuesday.
The Malaysian Airlines passenger jet crashed last Thursday, killing all 298 people on board.
Western nations say there is growing evidence that flight MH17 was hit by a Russian-supplied missile fired by rebels, but Russia has suggested Ukrainian government forces are to blame.
EU foreign ministers, meeting in Brussels, are thought likely to discuss expanding the list of Russian officials targeted by sanctions, but have so far steered clear of targeting whole sectors of the Russian economy.
Both the EU and the US imposed sanctions on Moscow following its annexation of Crimea and the outbreak of hostilities in eastern Ukraine.
Ukrainian separatists have handed over two flight-data recorders from the downed MH17 plane to Malaysian experts
Experts say the “black boxes” will reveal the exact time of the incident and the altitude and precise position of the aircraft.
They should also contain the cockpit voice recorder, which it is hoped will provide clues as to what the cause of the crash was.
The head of the Malaysian delegation at the handover in Donetsk told reporters that the recorders were “in good condition”.
The handover followed talks between the rebel commander and self-styled Prime Minister of the Donetsk People’s Republic Alexander Borodai and the Malaysian PM Najib Razak, according to a statement of Najib Razak.
The Malaysian prime minister also said those talks led to the rebels agreeing to allow the bodies to be transported to Kharkiv and international investigators to access the area.
“In recent days, there were times I wanted to give greater voice to the anger and grief that the Malaysian people feel and that I feel,” he said.
“But sometimes, we must work quietly in the service of a better outcome.”
Pro-Russian rebels allowed a freight train carrying the bodies of 282 passengers to be moved from a town near the crash site to Donetsk on Monday.
The Malaysian experts and a Dutch delegation are travelling with the train to the city of Kharkiv, where it is expected to arrive later on Tuesday.
From there, the bodies will be prepared for transfer by air to the Netherlands where forensic experts will evaluate and identify them.
Meanwhile a UN resolution, proposed by Australia, was passed calling for a “full, thorough and independent international investigation” into the downing of the plane over Grabove on July 17.
It also demanded that those responsible “be held to account and that all states co-operate fully with efforts to establish accountability”.