x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Crashed Italian jet's black boxes recovered from bottom of sea

UAE and Italian authorities are examining damaged flight recorders of a military plane that crashed into the Arabian Gulf last month, seeking clues about what caused the plane to fall out of the sky.

DUBAI // The damaged black box flight recorders have been recovered from the wreckage of an Italian military aircraft that crashed into the Arabian Gulf last month, giving authorities hope that they can now determine the cause of the accident.

The wreckage of the trainer M-346 will be sent back to Italy next week after Italian and Emirati divers have retrieved all the parts of the plane. The recovery operations were expected to conclude by Sunday.

Lt Col Francesco Tinagli, the defence attache at the Italian Embassy in Abu Dhabi, said: "There is some damage to the recorders, but we hope the engineers can collect enough data from them to have an idea of what has happened."

The Alenia Aermacchi-owned prototype was returning from the Dubai Airshow when it crashed three nautical miles from the Palm Deira on November 18, less than half an hour after take-off.

The two pilots, Quirino Bucci and Giovanni Paganini, ejected minutes before the plane went down. They were both taken to Rashid Hospital, where they were treated for injuries before returning to Italy.

Mr Paganini, the flight's co-pilot and flight engineer, underwent surgery to his left leg, which he broke during ejection.

Yesterday, the search for other small pieces of the aircraft continued.

"The most important parts, including the data recorder, will be flown back to Italy," Lt Col Tinagli said, adding that the remaining pieces will be shipped by sea.

The tail of the aircraft is one of the parts not damaged. The official expected the data analysis to be complete in a couple of months.

"The results will be shared with the UAE Government as it is a joint effort," he said.

A team of nine specialised divers from Italy joined Emirati divers to retrieve the debris that was lying 20 metres under the sea.

"Three days ago, the Italian team sent specialised divers from Italy with their hi-tech equipment to go deep and find the small pieces," said Lt Col Abdul Nasser Al Mualla, spokesman from the UAE Air Force.

"Our divers have been collecting and retrieving the wreckage from underneath the water and now more than 95 per cent of the parts have been recovered."