x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Air crash inquiry shifts overseas

At least one engine and the 'black boxes' from the Boeing 707 that crashed in Sharjah will soon be sent overseas for further examination.

An investigator examines an engine at the site of the crash.
An investigator examines an engine at the site of the crash.

At least one engine and the "black boxes" from the Boeing 707 that crashed in Sharjah last week will soon be sent overseas for further examination, the UAE's top civil aviation official said yesterday. Six crew members died when the Azza Transport cargo plane plunged to the ground shortly after take-off from Sharjah International Airport. American investigators were invited to the UAE to help determine the cause of the crash, but it was decided to send the plane's wreckage to the US instead, said Saif al Suwaidi, the director general of the General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA). The plane's flight recorders, or black boxes, will also be sent abroad to be examined. The recorders would be shipped to a laboratory in Britain, possibly today, Mr al Suwaidi said. After UAE investigators complete their analysis of the wreckage, what remains of at least one of the plane's four turbofan engines would undergo testing in America, he said. The engines will be examined by the National Transportation and Safety Board (NTSB), a US government agency that conducts aviation-accident investigations, and Boeing, the aircraft's manufacturer. "We will send it to the aircraft's manufacturer, but [the NTSB] will have a look at the engine with the manufacturer," Mr al Suwaidi said. The GCAA is also supplying American investigators with photographs of the wreckage and other evidence collected from the crash site. "There obviously needs to be some time for logistical arrangements," Mr al Suwaidi said. "But, once we are finished with the engines on our side, we'll try and send them as soon as possible. "We are checking the engine, the fuel system, the control system. We cannot give any solid information as of yet. "But we are examining whatever we can reach, and whatever we can't reach, we'll be sending it to the manufacturer." Two GCAA investigators will go to Sudan to collect documentation on the aircraft from its operator, Azza Transport, and meet aviation officials in the capital, Khartoum. The plane was leased to Sudan Airways by Azza, which has been banned indefinitely from flying in the UAE. There has been speculation that an entire engine had fallen off the plane, but Mr al Suwaidi all but ruled that out as a possible cause. "I don't see that as the case. But if two engines flamed out on the same side during take-off, then definitely it would lead to a crash," he said. The wreckage, he said, had been collected and stored in a secure area at Sharjah airport and was safely sheltered from yesterday's surprise rain. Azza officials released more information yesterday on the six crewmen who died in the crash. Five worked for Azza and had nearly 48,000 combined lifetime flight hours, according to company records. The sixth crew member, cargo officer Abu Baker Hussein, worked for Sudan Airways. Capt Mohammed Ali Abdullah, a Sudanese born in 1948, joined Sudan Airways in 1961 and by 1969 had became a pilot for the airline. He learnt to fly other planes in Britain, and he had piloted several Boeing and Airbus models. He joined Azza just weeks before the crash, and also worked as an instructor for the airline. He is survived by his wife and children. The first officer Alaa al Din Abdul Rahim Mahram, 34, was also from Sudan. He had accumulated 6,500 hours of flight time, as a pilot and co-pilot. He had experience in the 707 and the propeller-driven DHC-6 Twin Otter, as well as other planes. He leaves a wife, two sons and two daughters. The ground operations engineer El Sawi Mustafa El Sawi, 57, graduated from an aviation institute in the former Soviet Union in 1976. He joined Sudan Airways in 1981 and later obtained a licence for Boeing 707 ground operations in the US. He had a wife, three sons and two daughters. The flight engineer Mohammed El Fatih Mahdi, 53, was a graduate of an aeronautics institute in India who joined the Sudanese Air Force in 1985. He is survived by a wife and four children. The cargo officer Makki Abdelaziz Nasr, 44, graduated from the Armed Forces Technical Institute in Sudan in 1986. The loss of the six crew members was devastating to Azza Transport, said Capt Aidaros al Tayeb, the chief of flight operations for the company. Two hundred employees joined relatives in Khartoum on Sunday to receive the crew's remains. "All the aviators in Sudan were present at the airport with the families to pay their respects to the fallen pilots," Capt al Tayeb said. "We are like a family, and it was very painful to lose six of our brothers in such a tragic accident. "We have resumed operations normally now, but we have a cloud of sadness over everyone's head." The families of the crew would receive compensation, he said. "We have sent our staff to help all the families with their processions and to extend any support that we can give them," he said. "They will be compensated according to the international standards set for them as they are all insured." amustafa@thenational.ae hnaylor@thenational.ae