Russia: Deadly plane crash caused by pilots’ error on heat

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MOSCOW (AP) – Human error may be to blame for the crash of a Russian plane that killed 71 people, Russian investigators said Tuesday, noting that the plane’s pilots failed to turn on the heating unit for its measuring equipment, resulting in flawed speed data.

After studying An-148’s flight data recorder, the Interstate Aviation Committee said that Sunday’s crash near Moscow occurred after the pilots saw varying data on the plane’s two air speed indicators.

The flawed readings came because the pilots failed to turn on the heating unit for the plane’s pressure measurement equipment prior to takeoff, the committee said.

In this photo provided by the Russian Emergency Situations Ministry, an emergency team works at the scene of a AN-148 plane crash in Stepanovskoye village, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) from the Domodedovo airport, Russia, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018. Investigators are studying the information from flight recorders of a Russian passenger plane that has crashed near Moscow killing all 71 people on board. The Moscow-based Interstate Aviation Committee said Tuesday its experts managed to recover the data from both the plane's flight data and cockpit conversation recorders.  (Russian Ministry for Emergency Situations photo via AP)

In this photo provided by the Russian Emergency Situations Ministry, an emergency team works at the scene of a AN-148 plane crash in Stepanovskoye village, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) from the Domodedovo airport, Russia, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018. Investigators are studying the information from flight recorders of a Russian passenger plane that has crashed near Moscow killing all 71 people on board. The Moscow-based Interstate Aviation Committee said Tuesday its experts managed to recover the data from both the plane's flight data and cockpit conversation recorders.  (Russian Ministry for Emergency Situations photo via AP)

In this photo provided by the Russian Emergency Situations Ministry, an emergency team works at the scene of a AN-148 plane crash in Stepanovskoye village, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) from the Domodedovo airport, Russia, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018. Investigators are studying the information from flight recorders of a Russian passenger plane that has crashed near Moscow killing all 71 people on board. The Moscow-based Interstate Aviation Committee said Tuesday its experts managed to recover the data from both the plane’s flight data and cockpit conversation recorders. (Russian Ministry for Emergency Situations photo via AP)

The pilots put the An-148 on autopilot after taking off from Moscow’s Domodedovo Airport but took manual controls back when they saw conflicting speed data, with one indicator showing the plane’s speed at zero.

The pilots performed a series of maneuvers and eventually took the plane into a dive at 30-35 degrees. It plummeted into a snowy field six minutes after takeoff, killing all 65 passengers and six crew onboard.

The committee said it’s continuing to study the data, but noted that “erroneous data on the pilots’ speed indicators may have been a factor that triggered the special flight situation.”

It emphasized that the flawed speed data resulted from the “icing of pressure measurement instruments that had their heating systems turned off.”

Earlier reports indicated that the plane’s captain had chosen not to have the plane undergo a de-icing treatment before takeoff. The crew decides whether to have the plane sprayed by de-icing liquid, depending on weather conditions and the state of the plane.

The An-148 model itself has a very spotty safety record, with one previous crash and a string of major incidents in which pilots struggled to land safely. The carrier, Saratov Airlines, has grounded several other An-148s in its fleet pending the crash investigation.

In this photo provided by the Russian Emergency Situations Ministry, emergency personnel works at the scene of an AN-148 plane crash in Stepanovskoye village, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) from the Domodedovo airport, Russia, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018. Emergency teams combed the snowy fields outside Moscow on Monday, searching for debris from a crashed Russian airliner and the remains of the 71 people aboard it who died. (Russian Ministry for Emergency Situations photo via AP)

In this photo provided by the Russian Emergency Situations Ministry, emergency personnel works at the scene of an AN-148 plane crash in Stepanovskoye village, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) from the Domodedovo airport, Russia, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018. Emergency teams combed the snowy fields outside Moscow on Monday, searching for debris from a crashed Russian airliner and the remains of the 71 people aboard it who died. (Russian Ministry for Emergency Situations photo via AP)

In this photo provided by the Russian Emergency Situations Ministry, emergency personnel works at the scene of an AN-148 plane crash in Stepanovskoye village, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) from the Domodedovo airport, Russia, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018. Emergency teams combed the snowy fields outside Moscow on Monday, searching for debris from a crashed Russian airliner and the remains of the 71 people aboard it who died. (Russian Ministry for Emergency Situations photo via AP)

Emergency workers explore the site of a AN-148 plane crash in Stepanovskoye village, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) from the Domodedovo airport, Russia, Monday, Feb. 12, 2018. Emergency teams combed the snowy fields outside Moscow on Monday, searching for debris from a crashed Russian airliner and the remains of the 71 people aboard it who died. The An-148 twin-engine regional jet bound for Orsk in the southern Urals went down minutes after taking off from Moscow's Domodedovo airport Sunday afternoon. All 65 passengers and 6 crew on board were killed. (AP Photo/Nikolay Koreshkov)

Emergency workers explore the site of a AN-148 plane crash in Stepanovskoye village, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) from the Domodedovo airport, Russia, Monday, Feb. 12, 2018. Emergency teams combed the snowy fields outside Moscow on Monday, searching for debris from a crashed Russian airliner and the remains of the 71 people aboard it who died. The An-148 twin-engine regional jet bound for Orsk in the southern Urals went down minutes after taking off from Moscow's Domodedovo airport Sunday afternoon. All 65 passengers and 6 crew on board were killed. (AP Photo/Nikolay Koreshkov)

Emergency workers explore the site of a AN-148 plane crash in Stepanovskoye village, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) from the Domodedovo airport, Russia, Monday, Feb. 12, 2018. Emergency teams combed the snowy fields outside Moscow on Monday, searching for debris from a crashed Russian airliner and the remains of the 71 people aboard it who died. The An-148 twin-engine regional jet bound for Orsk in the southern Urals went down minutes after taking off from Moscow’s Domodedovo airport Sunday afternoon. All 65 passengers and 6 crew on board were killed. (AP Photo/Nikolay Koreshkov)

A girl places a candle as a group gather at the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow to light 71 candles in memory of those killed in the An-148 plane crash, on Monday, Feb. 12, 2018.  A Russian passenger plane carrying 71 people crashed Sunday near Moscow, killing everyone aboard shortly after the jet took off from one of the city's airports. The Saratov Airlines regional jet disappeared from radar screens a few minutes after departing from Domodedovo Airport en route to Orsk, a city some 1,500 kilometers (1,000 miles) southeast of Moscow. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

A girl places a candle as a group gather at the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow to light 71 candles in memory of those killed in the An-148 plane crash, on Monday, Feb. 12, 2018.  A Russian passenger plane carrying 71 people crashed Sunday near Moscow, killing everyone aboard shortly after the jet took off from one of the city's airports. The Saratov Airlines regional jet disappeared from radar screens a few minutes after departing from Domodedovo Airport en route to Orsk, a city some 1,500 kilometers (1,000 miles) southeast of Moscow. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

A girl places a candle as a group gather at the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow to light 71 candles in memory of those killed in the An-148 plane crash, on Monday, Feb. 12, 2018. A Russian passenger plane carrying 71 people crashed Sunday near Moscow, killing everyone aboard shortly after the jet took off from one of the city’s airports. The Saratov Airlines regional jet disappeared from radar screens a few minutes after departing from Domodedovo Airport en route to Orsk, a city some 1,500 kilometers (1,000 miles) southeast of Moscow. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

Orthodox youth with a priest gather at the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow lighting 71 candles in memory of those killed in the An-148 plane crash, Monday, Feb. 12, 2018. A Russian passenger plane carrying 71 people crashed Sunday near Moscow, killing everyone aboard shortly after the jet took off from one of the city's airports. The Saratov Airlines regional jet disappeared from radar screens a few minutes after departing from Domodedovo Airport en route to Orsk, a city some 1,500 kilometers (1,000 miles) southeast of Moscow. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

Orthodox youth with a priest gather at the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow lighting 71 candles in memory of those killed in the An-148 plane crash, Monday, Feb. 12, 2018. A Russian passenger plane carrying 71 people crashed Sunday near Moscow, killing everyone aboard shortly after the jet took off from one of the city's airports. The Saratov Airlines regional jet disappeared from radar screens a few minutes after departing from Domodedovo Airport en route to Orsk, a city some 1,500 kilometers (1,000 miles) southeast of Moscow. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

Orthodox youth with a priest gather at the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow lighting 71 candles in memory of those killed in the An-148 plane crash, Monday, Feb. 12, 2018. A Russian passenger plane carrying 71 people crashed Sunday near Moscow, killing everyone aboard shortly after the jet took off from one of the city’s airports. The Saratov Airlines regional jet disappeared from radar screens a few minutes after departing from Domodedovo Airport en route to Orsk, a city some 1,500 kilometers (1,000 miles) southeast of Moscow. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

In this photo provided by the Russian Emergency Situations Ministry, emergency personnel works at the wreckage of an AN-148 plane crash in Stepanovskoye village, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) from the Domodedovo airport, Russia, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018. Emergency teams combed the snowy fields outside Moscow on Monday, searching for debris from a crashed Russian airliner and the remains of the 71 people aboard it who died. (Russian Ministry for Emergency Situations photo via AP)

In this photo provided by the Russian Emergency Situations Ministry, emergency personnel works at the wreckage of an AN-148 plane crash in Stepanovskoye village, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) from the Domodedovo airport, Russia, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018. Emergency teams combed the snowy fields outside Moscow on Monday, searching for debris from a crashed Russian airliner and the remains of the 71 people aboard it who died. (Russian Ministry for Emergency Situations photo via AP)

In this photo provided by the Russian Emergency Situations Ministry, emergency personnel works at the wreckage of an AN-148 plane crash in Stepanovskoye village, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) from the Domodedovo airport, Russia, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018. Emergency teams combed the snowy fields outside Moscow on Monday, searching for debris from a crashed Russian airliner and the remains of the 71 people aboard it who died. (Russian Ministry for Emergency Situations photo via AP)

Personnel work at the scene of the AN-148 plane crash in Stepanovskoye village, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) from the Domodedovo airport, Russia, Moday, Feb. 12, 2018. The Russian passenger plane carrying 71 people crashed Sunday near Moscow, killing everyone aboard shortly after the jet took off from one of the city's airports. The Saratov Airlines regional jet disappeared from radar screens a few minutes after departing from Domodedovo Airport en route to Orsk, a city some 1,500 kilometers (1,000 miles) southeast of Moscow. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

Personnel work at the scene of the AN-148 plane crash in Stepanovskoye village, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) from the Domodedovo airport, Russia, Moday, Feb. 12, 2018. The Russian passenger plane carrying 71 people crashed Sunday near Moscow, killing everyone aboard shortly after the jet took off from one of the city's airports. The Saratov Airlines regional jet disappeared from radar screens a few minutes after departing from Domodedovo Airport en route to Orsk, a city some 1,500 kilometers (1,000 miles) southeast of Moscow. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

Personnel work at the scene of the AN-148 plane crash in Stepanovskoye village, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) from the Domodedovo airport, Russia, Moday, Feb. 12, 2018. The Russian passenger plane carrying 71 people crashed Sunday near Moscow, killing everyone aboard shortly after the jet took off from one of the city’s airports. The Saratov Airlines regional jet disappeared from radar screens a few minutes after departing from Domodedovo Airport en route to Orsk, a city some 1,500 kilometers (1,000 miles) southeast of Moscow. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

In this handout photo released by the Moscow-based Interstate Aviation Committee on Monday, Feb. 12, 2018, the flight recorders of a Russian passenger plane that crashed near Moscow, killing all 71 people on board are displayed at the Moscow-based Interstate Aviation Committee in Moscow, Russia. The An-148 regional jet operated by Saratov Airlines plummeted into a field minutes after taking off Sunday from Moscow's Domodedovo Airport and exploded in a giant fireball. (Interstate Aviation Committee via AP)

In this handout photo released by the Moscow-based Interstate Aviation Committee on Monday, Feb. 12, 2018, the flight recorders of a Russian passenger plane that crashed near Moscow, killing all 71 people on board are displayed at the Moscow-based Interstate Aviation Committee in Moscow, Russia. The An-148 regional jet operated by Saratov Airlines plummeted into a field minutes after taking off Sunday from Moscow's Domodedovo Airport and exploded in a giant fireball. (Interstate Aviation Committee via AP)

In this handout photo released by the Moscow-based Interstate Aviation Committee on Monday, Feb. 12, 2018, the flight recorders of a Russian passenger plane that crashed near Moscow, killing all 71 people on board are displayed at the Moscow-based Interstate Aviation Committee in Moscow, Russia. The An-148 regional jet operated by Saratov Airlines plummeted into a field minutes after taking off Sunday from Moscow’s Domodedovo Airport and exploded in a giant fireball. (Interstate Aviation Committee via AP)

In this photo provided by the Russian Emergency Situations Ministry, emergency personnel load debris of an engine of the AN-148 plane crash on a truck in Stepanovskoye village, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) from the Domodedovo airport, Russia, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018. Emergency teams combed the snowy fields outside Moscow on Monday, searching for debris from a crashed Russian airliner and the remains of the 71 people aboard it who died. (Russian Ministry for Emergency Situations photo via AP)

In this photo provided by the Russian Emergency Situations Ministry, emergency personnel load debris of an engine of the AN-148 plane crash on a truck in Stepanovskoye village, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) from the Domodedovo airport, Russia, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018. Emergency teams combed the snowy fields outside Moscow on Monday, searching for debris from a crashed Russian airliner and the remains of the 71 people aboard it who died. (Russian Ministry for Emergency Situations photo via AP)

In this photo provided by the Russian Emergency Situations Ministry, emergency personnel load debris of an engine of the AN-148 plane crash on a truck in Stepanovskoye village, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) from the Domodedovo airport, Russia, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018. Emergency teams combed the snowy fields outside Moscow on Monday, searching for debris from a crashed Russian airliner and the remains of the 71 people aboard it who died. (Russian Ministry for Emergency Situations photo via AP)

In this photo provided by the Russian Emergency Situations Ministry, emergency personnel prepare to pull out debris of an engine of the AN-148 plane crash in Stepanovskoye village, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) from the Domodedovo airport, Russia, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018. Emergency teams combed the snowy fields outside Moscow on Monday, searching for debris from a crashed Russian airliner and the remains of the 71 people aboard it who died. (Russian Ministry for Emergency Situations photo via AP)

In this photo provided by the Russian Emergency Situations Ministry, emergency personnel prepare to pull out debris of an engine of the AN-148 plane crash in Stepanovskoye village, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) from the Domodedovo airport, Russia, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018. Emergency teams combed the snowy fields outside Moscow on Monday, searching for debris from a crashed Russian airliner and the remains of the 71 people aboard it who died. (Russian Ministry for Emergency Situations photo via AP)

In this photo provided by the Russian Emergency Situations Ministry, emergency personnel prepare to pull out debris of an engine of the AN-148 plane crash in Stepanovskoye village, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) from the Domodedovo airport, Russia, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018. Emergency teams combed the snowy fields outside Moscow on Monday, searching for debris from a crashed Russian airliner and the remains of the 71 people aboard it who died. (Russian Ministry for Emergency Situations photo via AP)

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