Early this morning, Fly Dubai flight FZ981 crashed and exploded while landing at Rostov-on-Dov airport in Russia, with all 55 passengers and 7 crew members killed. The crash occurred early in the morning on the aircraft’s second approach to the airport due to poor weather in the area. High winds between 26-42 miles per hour were reported in the area. The aircraft was a Boeing 737-800, which has an excellent safety record and is the most popular model of the 737NG series.
FlyDubai is a seven-star airline from a safety perspective, with relatively new aircraft of the latest generation, and has passed all safety audits. The flight crew, a Spaniard and Cypriot, had more than 5,000 hours of experience between them. This is the first crash for FlyDubai, which prior to this incident had an excellent safety record.
Apparently the flight held for more than 2 hours while other aircraft diverted to another airport without high winds about 30 minutes away. The potential for wind-shear appears to be one factor that may be a focus of the investigation, but it is too early to speculate on a cause for the accident
The final moments of the flight were apparently captured by a CCTV camera showing the explosion, which can be found here. Photographs of the wreckage show only small pieces of the aircraft, indicating a severe impact. The video appears to indicate that the aircraft may have been on fire prior to landing, but it is difficult to tell. We will need to await the analysis of the “black boxes” and reconstruction of the facts by the Russia aviation authorities.
Both the flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder were found undamaged, and will be analyzed by Russian authorities. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims of this tragedy and their loved ones.
Without speculating on FZ981, there are a number of reasons why an aircraft may enter aircraft upset on a go-around. Firstly, since an under-wing mounted engines aircraft has a thrust vector beneath its center of gravity, increasing thrust will cause attitude pitch-up. Further, retracting the landing gear will alter the drag profile such that attitude pitch-up is caused. Thirdly, retracting the flaps will shift the center of lift forwards, albeit to a quite small extent, but in any case it contributes to a pitch-up attitude. Lastly, winds may easily affect the attitude of an aircraft. So all in all, if pilots aren’t monitoring the artificial horizon very closely during a go-around, the aircraft may relatively quickly hit a twenty or twenty-five degree pitch-up attitude, and pretty quickly the aircraft enters an upset condition.