Veteran crew flew crashed Sudan plane
Published Monday, August 20, 2012
A veteran crew flew a three-decades-old plane which crashed in Sudan's war-torn South Kordofan, killing all 32 government officials and others aboard, the company said on Monday.
The managers of Alfa Airlines, a Sudanese passenger and cargo charter firm, told AFP they did not know the reason for Sunday's crash and would await the result of a government inquiry.
"The captain is flying with this company for five years," Alfa's quality control manager, Tilal Mohammed, said at the firm's office as people visited to offer condolences.
"They are not a new crew," he said.
Moscow's embassy confirmed to AFP earlier on Monday that the captain of the plane was a Russian "on private contract" with the airline.
The navigator, from Tajikistan, had been with Alfa for nine years and the Armenian flight engineer had three years' experience, Mohammed said.
The co-pilot was Sudanese.
Several small airlines in Sudan use crews from the former Soviet Union.
The official SUNA news agency said all six crew and 26 passengers, who included top government and military officials, died in the crash.
They were members of a delegation, led by Guidance and Endowments Minister Ghazi Al-Saddiq, traveling to the South Kordofan town of Talodi for a ceremony to mark the Eid al-Fitr holiday which ends the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.
The plane "crashed into a hill" because of bad weather, killing the entire delegation, Culture and Information Minister Ahmed Bilal Osman told state radio.
Ethnic minority rebels in South Kordofan have been battling government troops since June last year but said they had nothing to do with the crash, which happened in a government-controlled area.
Alfa's administration manager, Mohammed Al-Hassan Taha, told AFP that a team from the Sudan Civil Aviation Authority was expected to begin its investigation on Monday.
"It is a big disaster," he said. "A team of more than 10 specialists from Civil Aviation, I think they fly today to the accident site," Taha said, adding the findings could take at least two months.
Air accidents are common in Sudan, which has an aging fleet of aircraft.
Europe bans all Sudanese airlines, including Alfa, for safety reasons.
The doomed aircraft, a propeller-driven Antonov AN-26, was about 35 years old but had passed mandatory maintenance checks, the managers said.
"We are following the system, the system of the manufacturer, of the Civil Aviation, and we have our own system," Mohammed said.
The crashed aircraft carried safety gear including weather radar, a Traffic Collision Avoidance System and Enhanced Ground Proximity Warning System, he said.
Alfa has three similar aircraft as well as an Ilyushin IL-76 jet, Taha said, adding the carrier had only "minor" accidents before.
The new company Alfa was formed in 2008 to replace a firm called Ababeel, Taha said.
Four Russian crew on an Ababeel Ilyushin cargo plane were killed in June 2008 when it crashed shortly after takeoff from Khartoum.