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Workers find both data recorders at Russian plane crash site

AP  |  Moscow 

Tramping through snowy fields outside Moscow, emergency workers found both flight data recorders from a crashed Russian as they searched today for debris and the remains of the 71 passengers and crew who died.

The twin-engine regional jet bound for Orsk in the went down minutes after taking off from yesterday. All 65 passengers and 6 crew on board were killed.

Russian investigators quickly ruled out a terror attack but will not speculate on possible reasons for the crash.

Still the crash has re-ignited questions about the An- 148, since the model's safety record is spotty, with one previous crash and a series of major incidents in which pilots struggled to land safely. has grounded several other in its fleet pending the crash probe.

The Investigative Committee, Russia's premier state investigative agency, said the plane was intact and there had been no fire on board before it hit the ground.

The plane's fuel tanks exploded on impact, scattering debris across 30 hectares (74 acres) in deep snow, according to the Emergency Ministry, which used drones to direct the search.

told a Cabinet meeting that emergency teams have found both flight data and cockpit conversation recorders, which are crucial for determining the crash's cause.

Officials said the search for victims' remains at the will take a week. The 65 passengers ranged in age from 5 to 79, according to a list posted by the Russian Emergencies Ministry. Most victims were from Orsk, where the authorities declared an official day of mourning today.

The plane was operated by Saratov Airlines, which said the plane had received proper maintenance and passed all the necessary checks before the flight. The plane was built in 2010 for a different that operated it for several years before putting it in storage. commissioned it last year.

The said the plane's had more than 5,000 hours of flying time, 2,800 of them in an The other pilot had 812 hours of experience, largely in that model.

Despite Saratov Airlines' move to ground its An-148s, another Russian operator of the plane, Angara, based in in eastern Siberia, said it will keep flying them. agencies that also operate the aircraft haven't grounded them either.

The once was touted as an example of Russian- Ukrainian cooperation, but it fell into trouble as relations between the two neighbours unravelled following Russia's 2014 annexation of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula.

It was developed by in the early 2000s. About 40 were built, most of them in that manufactured the plane under license.

Along with several commercial carriers, the is operated by the and several other government agencies. Ukraine's has used the plane for some of his trips.

But the plane's production in was halted last year because of low demand and indicated that some carriers, including the Saratov Airlines, were experiencing a shortage of spares. Some airlines reportedly had to cannibalise some of their planes to keep others airworthy.

Among the major problems, in March 2011 an crashed during a training flight in Russia, killing all six crew on board. Investigators blamed pilot error.

In 2010, another operated by a Russian carrier suffered a major failure of its control system but its crew managed to land safely.

Last September, a had one of its engines shut down minutes after takeoff, but landed safely. And in October, another that belonged to a different Russian carrier suffered an engine fire on takeoff but managed to land.

The last large crash in occurred on December 25, 2016, when a operated by the Russian Defence Ministry on its way to crashed into the Black Sea minutes after takeoff from Sochi. All 92 people on board were killed.

The probe into that crash is still ongoing, but officials have indicated that a pilot error appeared to be the reason.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Mon, February 12 2018. 21:55 IST