According to Egyptian officials, a Russian airliner crashed early Saturday in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, killing all 224 people aboard. The Airbus A321 was owned and operated by Kogalymavia–better known as MetroJet.
Egyptian officials do not suspect foul play, despite claims by ISIS that it is responsible for the downing of the airliner. The terrorist group has even released a video allegedly showing the ill-fated jet as it explodes and goes down. There was nothing out of the ordinary reported on a preflight inspection, according to Egyptian Civil Aviation Minister Hossam Kamel.
Russian media outlets are reporting many of the 217 passengers aboard Flight 9268, which departed Sharm el-Sheikh near the southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula on the Red Sea side, were returning home from vacation. It disappeared from air traffic control radar displays at approximately 0620 AM–twenty-three minutes into the flight.
Here’s what we know so far:
- The plane was flying above 30,000 feet when it “suddenly disappeared” from radar.
- Russian media outlets are saying the pilot advised of technical problems and requested a divert to the nearest airport before the aircraft disappeared, but those reports haven’t been confirmed.
- Weather was no factor.
- The crash site is near Housna, approximately 185 miles north of the airport in Sharm el-Sheikh
- Islamists militants in the Sinai linked to ISIS claimed responsibility for the crash, according to an online statement.
- Russian Transport Minister Maxim Sokolov said the claim “cannot be considered reliable.”
Indeed, ISIS having a MAN Portable Air Defense System (MANPADS) capable of reaching an aircraft flying at 31,000 feet is a very tough sell. Aside from the video which, interestingly enough, was not shown on the official ISIS channels, the group has not produced any video or still photography to substantiate its claim of “shooting down” the Russian jet. If there is determined to be foul play involved, the more likely scenario would be some sort of explosive device secreted aboard the airplane, instead of a scenario where a MANPADS actually shot the aircraft down.
So if we take ISIS completely out of the equation, the most likely scenario would be something similar to what happened to China Airlines Flight 611. That aircraft, a Boeing 747, disintegrated in mid-air on 25 May 2002, approximately twenty minutes after takeoff. The aircraft had experienced a tail strike twenty-two years previous and repairs made to the damaged section were not done in accordance to Boeing specifications.
The “repaired” portion of the 747’s tail section, following countless cycles of pressurization and depressurization, finally cracked and then gave way entirely, resulting in an explosive decompression. The explosion caused the aircraft to break apart in mid-air, and everyone aboard perished.
Incidently, this particular Metrojet Airbus also suffered a tail strike early in its service life, and the point in flight which the incident occurred is eerily similar to Dynasty 611. It’s a slippery slope to speculate too much on what happened here, but we’ll definitely keep you posted as more substantiated data becomes available.
In the mean time, our thoughts are with Metrojet and all of the families of the Russian and Ukrainian passengers and crew aboard Flight 9268.
(Photos courtesy of AP/Reuters/Getty Images)