KAZAN, Russia — The grainy airport video is dark, short and chilling. Within five seconds, a dot of light that Russian authorities say is a Boeing 737 appears in the sky over the tarmac and plunges to the ground in a near-vertical crash. The result is a blinding fireball.
The video shown Monday by Russian television stations — http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vgGHrMJuxRs — of Sunday night’s horrifying crash at Kazan airport that killed all 50 people onboard raises a host of questions, including why the plane’s second attempt to land at night in good weather went so horribly wrong.
Russian investigators combed through the incinerated wreckage Monday after fire crews spent hours extinguishing the blaze. Experts from the NTSB, Boeing and the FAA were heading to the scene to help.
The Boeing 737 belonging to Tatarstan Airlines was making its second attempt at a landing in Kazan, 720 kilometers (520 miles) east of Moscow, according to Alexander Poltinin, head of the local branch of Russia’s Investigative Committee.
The traffic controller at the Kazan airport who contacted the plane before the crash said the crew told him they weren’t ready to land as it was approaching but didn’t specify the problem.
Marat Zaripov, deputy head of the local branch of the Investigative Committee, initially told reporters that his team would look into all theories, including a terrorist attack. But the Investigative Committee said in a statement later Monday that it was now considering three possible causes: a technical fault, a pilot error or adverse weather conditions.
Poltinin said it could take weeks to identify the remains.
Investigators have found both of the plane’s black boxes — which record the plane’s performance and the crew’s conversations — but said they were damaged.
The brief video taken by an airport security camera showed the plane going down at high speed at a nearly vertical angle and then hitting the ground and exploding. It was confirmed as authentic to The Associated Press by the emergency press service at Kazan airport and other Russian officials.
Magomed Tolboyev, a highly decorated Russian test pilot, said on Rossiya television that it wasn’t immediately clear why the crew was unable to land on their first try in good weather.
U.S. National Transportation Safety Board spokesman Eric Weiss said Monday that a team of eight U.S. aviation safety experts were heading to Russia to assist: three NTSB crash investigators, a U.S. Federal Aviation Administration investigator and four experts from the plane manufacturer.