The Russian plane which crashed in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula killing 224 people “broke up in the air,” an aviation official has revealed.
It is, however, too early to conclude from that what caused the plane to crash, Viktor Sorochenko said after inspecting the crash site.
The plane, which was travelling from Sharm el-Sheikh to the Russian city of St Petersburg, disappeared from radar on Saturday some 23 minutes into the flight. It was flying at about 31,000ft when contact was lost.
A team of investigators has begun examining the contents of two black box recorders recovered from the aircraft, although Egypt’s president Abdul Fattah al-Sisi has warned the investigation could take months.
Russian and Egyptian officials have so far played down reports of terrorism after Islamic State-linked militants, the Wilayat Sinai (Sinai Province) group, claimed responsibility for downing the jet.
Unverified video footage of what appears to be a plane falling out of the sky has purportedly been released by Islamic State, however it has been widely discounted.
Egypt’s ambassador to the UK, Nasser Kamel, told Sky’s Murnaghan programme early indications suggest the crash had “nothing to do with a terrorist attack”.
“No terrorist organisation has the capacity to target a plane at 30,000ft,” he said.
Concern over the cause of the attack has prompted three major airlines – Lufthansa, Air France and Emirates – to halt flights over the Sinai Peninsula, an area which has seen clashes between Egyptian forces and Islamic militants for years.
EasyJet, meanwhile, has said it will “actively review” the safety of flights to Egypt.
An easyJet spokesman said the budget airline is “taking advice from all the relevant authorities” while the investigation is under way.
In the meantime it will continue operating flights to and from the popular holiday resort Sharm el-Sheikh “as planned,” the spokesman said.
British Airways also said it has no plans to change its route to and from Sharm el-Sheikh.
A BA spokeswoman told Sky News: “The safety and security of our customers and crew is always our top priority, and we would never operate a flight unless it was safe to do so.
“Our safety team continually liaises with the appropriate authorities around the world, and we conduct very detailed risk assessments into every route we operate.”
The new measures come amid dispute over the condition of the plane.
The co-pilot’s wife has told reporters he called his daughter before boarding the jet to say “the technical condition of the aircraft left much to be desired.”
The pilot also reported a technical failure shortly after take-off and had requested to land at a nearby airport, according to Egyptian media.
That report was contradicted, however, by Egypt’s civil aviation minister Mohamed Hossam Kemal who said communications between the plane and air traffic control before the crash had been normal and that nothing irregular occurred before the accident.
“The plane did not request a change of route,” he said.
Meanwhile, an Egyptian ground service official who examined the plane before takeoff told news agency AP it appeared to be in good condition.
Russia’s transport regulator has issued Kogalymavia, known also as Metrojet, with an inspection order to check all its Airbus A321 planes.
Vladimir Putin has declared Sunday as a national day of mourning, and the Kremlin has sent an emergency response team to the site of the crash.
All but four of the victims were Russian nationals, and the rest were Ukrainians. According to Russian officials, 25 of those on board Flight KFL-9268 were children.
In a statement, Airbus said the plane was produced in 1997 and had accumulated some 56,000 flight hours in nearly 21,000 flights.
Prime Minister David Cameron has expressed his sympathy to his Russian counterpart President Vladimir Putin.
In a phone call, Mr Cameron “said how sorry he was about this terrible tragedy and that Britain shared the pain and grief of the Russian people,” a Downing Street spokesman said.
“The Prime Minister added that Britain stood ready to help if there was anything we could do to establish the reasons behind the crash.”
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The tragedy of this is that ISIS claimed responsibility….and focus should be on those who have lost their lives and their families who will now mourn. May they rest in peace
Very worrying if they do have the weaponry to down a plane at 30,000 ft. Although I refuse to believe they have. RIP all on board.
Why didn’t he call his bosses instead? Fishy report.
What can one say about this tragedy? A technical fault backing up the worries of the co-pilot before take-off. I suspect that the pressures put on the pilot/co-pilot by the airline to get the plane off the ground ultimately outweighed the value of the lives lost. As for the aircraft being in “good shape”, this is an obvious insurance claim avoidance measure. Deeply saddening.
I’m surprised that Russia hasn’t yet blamed the Ukranian ‘terrorists’.