Moscow plane crash caused by iced over speed sensors, investigators say

Sensors crucial in determining aircraft speeds are thought to be behind the plane crash that claimed 71 lives.

The speed sensors, known as pitot tubes, were iced over prior to the airplane taking off and had malfunctioned minutes after it was in the air, resulting in the plane going down 40 km south of Moscow on February 11.

Saratov airlines 703 had been bound for the city of Orsk, in the Ural mountain region near the border with Kazakhstan, departing from Moscow’s Domodedovo Airport. Minutes after takeoff, incorrect speed readings were being displayed and the resulting confusion may have led to the plane crashing in a rural field at sub-zero temperatures.

The Kommersant reported that the black box recorded the frantic and incoherent screams of the pilots shortly before the plane crashed. There is currently a criminal probe into the plane crash where the audio from the black box may be used as evidence.

Almost all of the victims were Russian nationals with many young people onboard as well. Among them, a 38-year-old mother of three young daughters had died enroute to being reunited with her family in Orsk, the BBC has reported.

The report also detailed of tributes to a 17-year-old, Ilya Poletayev, who was planning to study law in Moscow. A five-year-old girl also died in the crash. 

Though the country is mourning the loss of many lives in the crash, few are surprised that it has occurred once again.

The aircraft Antonov An-148 was nearly 80 years old and represents Russia’s aging and inadequate air fleet. Crashes as a result of malfunctioning aircraft have been commonplace in the country, the most recent being when a military plane carry the Red Army Choir went down last year killing all 92 onboard enroute to Syria from Sochi.

Over 40 incidents have occurred since 1990 where the aircraft has played a role in the accident.

The crash is the first for Saratov Airlines, a regional carrier in Russia. Previously running under the brand Saravia, the company rebranded as Saratov Airlines in 2013 and hold four other aircraft in its fleet of the same model to the Orsk-bound airplane that crashed.

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