Investigators Share What Happened to the flydubai 737 That Crashed Last Month

Last month a flydubai Boeing 737 crashed at Rostov on Don, Russia as it faced severe weather.

While I think most travelers find airline accidents disturbing, and even take them personally and are affected by them, this incident struck me somewhat closer to home than it might have, since I had just recently taken flydubai for the first time myself.

Weather that night was terrible, and the plane had aborted its approach to the airport’s runway 22. It held at 8000 feet for half an hour, then climbed back to 15,000 feet where it held for another hour and a half.

Aeroflot, Czech and Turkish all diverted that night. It appears that the flydubai aircraft had just aborted an attempt, rather than crashing during an attempted landing.

Here’s the remarkably calm air traffic control recording in the minutes prior to the crash.

In this video the plane appears to be descending sharply and quickly.

The agency investigating the crash has released some preliminary findings.

Amid windshear warnings and severe turbulence, the crew aborted an attempted landing at Rostov-on-Don Airport. But as they revved the engines to regain altitude, the plane was inexplicably put into a “nose-down” position, leading to a sudden descent of the Boeing Co. 737-800 that doomed all 62 people on board, the Interstate Aviation Committee said in a statement on Friday after a preliminary review of flight data.

…Amid high winds, rain and low cloud cover, the crew had disengaged the autopilot and was seeking to land the aircraft manually. After descending to 220 meters (720 feet), the landing procedure was halted and the plane started to climb again with engines at “takeover thrust,” the report said. Then at a height of 900 meters, the plane received “nose-down input” resulting in the abrupt descent that the pilots failed to halt. The reason for the change of direction wasn’t explained. The plane hit the ground at more than 600 kilometers per hour (372 mph).

Of course we do not yet know what caused the pilots to put the plane into nose down position. While the early report suggests that pilot error could have contributed to the crash which occurred in severe weather, we’ll need to wait for a good bit more information to know what happened here. Was the aircraft stalling? Was the downward trajectory intentional or the result of some failure with the aircraft?

The probably cause has yet to be formally determined, and there doesn’t yet seem to be enough information to learn from — which is the most important outcome of any crash investigation, to determine what happened so that it can be avoided in the future and aviation as a whole can be made even more safe.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. The plane stalled and the pilot were trying to gain air speed on the wings to get lift. They thought they were flying a fighter jet.

    They should why this flight didn’t divert.

  2. Yes, the only explanation I can see for the steep dive is a low-altitude stall, likely induced by weather, pilot error or both.

  3. If they have enough info from the data recorders to determine that input to the horizontal stabilizer led to the dive and the speed of the aircraft at impact, they should also know the airspeed and attitude of the aircraft at the time the dive started. That information would tell if the aircraft stalled.

    This incident seems strange because the video clearly shows the aircraft lights for several seconds after it had descended below the ceiling to the minimum descent altitude on the localizer approach to runway 22. The pilots should have been able to see the runway and land the aircraft. The wind was strong but it was coming from 230 degrees which was right down the runway. Even after declaring a missed approach and climbing back through the clouds, when the airplane crashed it impacted right beside runway 22.

  4. @Tom

    There is also the chance of somatogravic illusion exacerbated by fatigue making the pilots believe they were climbing too fast, resulting in the “nose-down” input to the control column putting the plane into a dive into the ground. This is a possible, even likely, scenario that doesn’t involve stalling.

  5. @Red: I’m not going with “likely” on that explanation
    Sudden windshift resulting in loss of true airspeed and a concomitant stall is just one likely possibility. All sorts of bad shit happens around weather.

    All sorts of bad shit happening close to the ground leaves almost no time for recovery.
    Not diverting was inexplicable here.
    I’d like to know how much PIC time these guys had.

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