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Disaster plane may have run out of fuel

作者:诸沽    发布时间:2019-03-06 12:16:08    

By Nicola Jones While friends and families mourn the 145 victims of a Russian plane that crashed on Tuesday, early reports into the cause of the disaster indicate that the plane may have run out of fuel. Russian President Vladimir Putin has already ordered an investigation into the crash. The plane, a Tupolev-154M run by the Russian Vladivostok Avia airlines, was flying from Yekaterinburg to Vladivostok, with a refuelling stop in Irkutsk. It is believed the plane made two failed attempts to land at Irkutsk, possibly because of foggy weather. During a third approach, the plane crashed into a field in Siberia, more than 30 kilometres from the airport. There were no survivors. Both of the “black boxes” from the plane have been retrieved, but have so far have revealed little. Emergencies minister Sergei Shoigu said that early reports indicate that all three of the aircraft’s engines failed, leaving it to drop from a height of 800 metres. David Learmount, the operations and safety editor of Flight International, told New Scientist: “The cause of multiple engine power loss is almost always fuel starvation.” The Tupolev-154 series is the most common aircraft in Russia. While there have been 26 accidents with such planes since 1970, many more have been flown safely. “If you look at it in terms of rates, it’s one of the safest ones,” says Learmount. The plane was on a relatively long haul, Learmount points out, and the two failed landings would have used up a lot of fuel. While all planes should carry enough fuel for an emergency landing at the next nearest airport, some may not. This could be due to economising, by cutting down on excess weight, or to a calculation error. Planes run out of fuel several times a year, says Learmount, though it is usually private airplanes rather than commercial carriers. Learmount also points out that there does not seem to be much evidence of a lot of fire at the Irkutsk landing site, perhaps because there was little fuel to burn. He also says that a third landing attempt is very unusual. “The most you would ever do is two attempts before you go somewhere else,” he says. This could indicate that the pilot was running low on fuel. But since the crash site was over 30 kilometres from the airport, he adds, the pilot was taking a very generous circling pattern before the third attempt. Usually the circle would be only half that distance, even in foggy weather. Flock of birds Frank Taylor, director of the Cranfield Aviation Safety Centre in the UK, agrees that running out of fuel is the simplest way to explain multiple engine failure. But, he adds, a large flock of birds or very bad weather could also be responsible. “Accidents are very unlikely so we must expect the causes to be very unlikely,” he points out. It should be easy to tell if the engines were rotating or not when they hit the ground from the wreckage, Taylor says, and records should show how much fuel the plane had on board. Learmount says we should know the answers soon. “The Russians are very quick with this certain kind of thing,

 

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