Pilot of airliner in fatal crash in Kazan, Russia, may have had fake licence

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 07 December, 2013, 3:33am
UPDATED : Saturday, 07 December, 2013, 3:33am

Russian authorities are investigating if the pilot of a -that crashed near the city of Kazan last month - killing all 50 people on board - had a counterfeit licence.

The investigators are also searching the state aviation agency to see if some other pilots also got their licence from the same training centre as the dead pilot. It was later closed on suspicion of operating illegally.

Investigative Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin said there were reasons to believe that the pilot who sent the Tatarstan Boeing 737 into a near-vertical dive after an aborted first landing had received his licence illegally from the small training centre.

Crash investigators said at the time the pilot had aborted a first attempt to land. In making a second effort, he had pushed the steering column forward, pitching the plane into a nosedive that brought the aircraft crashing into the tarmac.

Markin told Interfax there was reason to believe that many pilots working for smaller Russian airlines had effectively "received fake commercial licences" as they had not had proper training.

"Investigators continue to look at the circumstances in which the crew of the crashed jetliner were trained," Markin said. "The investigators have doubts about the legality of the activity of the said aviation training centre."

The centre in question was accredited by airline regulator Rosaviation. The Investigative Committee was carrying out searches in some of Rosaviation's departments and plans to question its managers.

The head of Tatarstan Airlines, Aksan Giniyatullin, was fired over the crash, the province's ministry of transport said on Tuesday.

A Rosaviation committee on Wednesday recommended grounding Tatarstan Airlines after a post-crash inspection revealed that some personnel were overworked or poorly trained.

But the airline said it was operating as usual and that it had not been told to cease operations.

"Tatarstan Airlines officially confirms that all flights are continuing normally. Information from the federal agency about cancelling the licence is of a recommendatory nature. If an official decision is taken to suspend the airline's activity, information will be given promptly."

Analysis of accident statistics shows that flying as a commercial airline passenger in Russia is roughly four times as dangerous as the world average.

Worldwide, on average, one passenger dies for every 4.7 million that board a commercial airliner. In Russia, that ratio is one to 1.2 million, according to figures from international airline group IATA, the Aviation Safety Network and Rosaviation.

Additional reporting by Associated Press