Dramatic Footage Of Flydubai Boeing Crashing On Landing In Russia, Killing Everyone On Board

Tyler Durden's picture

A Boeing 737-800 operated by Dubai-based budget carrier Flydubai, flying from Dubai to Russia, crashed yesterday at 0340 local time (0040 GMT) on its second attempt to land at Rostov-on-Don airport on Saturday, Russian officials said. All 62 people on board, most of whom were Russian. were killed.

"The aircraft hit the ground and broke into pieces," the Investigative Committee of Russia said in a statement on its website. "There were 55 passengers aboard and seven crew members. They all died." Six of the crew were non-Russians, with LifeNews reporting citizens of Cyprus (captain), Colombia, Kirgizia, Russia, Spain (2) and the Seychelles were among the crew members.

"During the landing approach a Boeing-737 crashed. It had 55 passengers on board. All of them died," a regional spokesman told TASS. "The plane, according to preliminary data, crashed during the second approach," the source told Interfax.

Flydubai said in a statement that there were 44 Russians among the 55 passengers, eight Ukrainians, two Indians and one Uzbek. Four children were among the dead.

According to Reuters, both of the plane's flight recorders have been recovered undamaged, the committee said in a statement. "Different versions of what happened are being looked into, including crew error, a technical failure and bad weather conditions," the committee said. RT adds that according to the spokesman for the southern bureau of Russia’s Investigative Committee, Oksana Kovrizhnaya, there have been put forward two versions of the crash: “Pilot error in deteriorating weather conditions or a technical failure,” she said.

 A view shows the crash site of Flight FZ981

Flydubai's CEO Ghaith al-Ghaith told a press conference in the Gulf Arab emirate that it was "too early" to determine the cause of the crash. "We will have information about the circumstances of the incident and the black box in the future, and an investigation is being conducted in cooperation with the Russian authorities and we are waiting to see the results," Ghaith said.

The CEO added that he had no information to indicate that the pilot had issued a distress call and said both the pilot and co-pilot, a Cypriot and a Spaniard respectively, each had over 5,000 hours of flight experience.

As can be seen in the flight map below, the plane was in a mid-air holding pattern for about two hours and the crash occurred more than two hours after the plane, flight number FZ981, was scheduled to land.

The plane came down inside the airport's perimeter, about 250 meters (yards) short of the start of the runway. ITs wing hit the ground on its second attempt to land and burst into flames, the Rostov region's emergency ministry said in a statement.

Dramatic, if grainy, footage from a security camera pointing towards the airport, which were broadcast on Russian television, showed a large explosion at ground level, with flames and sparks leaping high into the air.


According to the Flight Safety Foundation, there was strong wind with a speed of 12 meters per second, with gusts up to 19 meters, but visibility was reasonable. According to RT, flight FZ981 arrived in Rostov-on-Don at about 1:30am, but due to harsh weather conditions, strong side winds gusting at 25-30 meters per second, it spent the next two hours in the air, picking its moment to land. As FZ981 was cruising near Rostov-on-Don (ROV), several other flights opted for alternative airports, but the captain of FZ981 decided to wait for a chance to land at ROV.

The crash is the budget airline's first since it started flying in May 2009. It last suffered a major safety incident when one of its planes was shot at while landing at Baghdad airport on Jan. 27, 2015.

Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered for assistance to be given to the relatives of those killed.

"The head of state said that now the main thing is to work with the families and the loved ones of those who had died," the Kremlin said in a statement on its website. "The Russian president feels deeply for all those who lost their loved ones in the Boeing 737 crash in Rostov-on-Don,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov announced on Saturday, stressing that the president has made it a priority to provide all possible assistance to the relatives of the victims.

Russia’s Investigative Committee has launched a probe into the incident with preliminary data indicating that the plane disintegrated and caught fire upon touching the ground. The head of the Emergency Ministry Vladimir Puchkov has held a special meeting, with all the ministry’s efforts, and resources of the local response teams and authorities, directed to the crash site.

There are over 700 response team specialists and about 100 special vehicles operating at the Rostov-on-Don Airport right now. Relatives of the victims are gathering at the airport, Vasily Golubev, governor of Rostov region, told media. He stressed that everyone will get sympathetic and personal attention.

Golubev said most of the Russian passengers were tourists. The governor said the weather conditions at the crash site are better than they were at nighttime, and though it is still raining, the wind has weakened and the well-equipped response teams will continue to work while there is light.

The last recorded conversation of the pilots of the crashed Boeing with Rostov airport dispatch is captured in the following recording.


More dramatic footage from the site of the crash below:

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indygo55's picture

Man that plane looks like it came down at a pretty severe angle. The written report said it was attempting a second landing but that crash looks like it fell out of the sky.


DownWithYogaPants's picture

Agreed.  Something does not smell right.

Dame Ednas Possum's picture

Eff'ing great...my family and I are booked on FlyDubai next Friday morning from Dubai to Prague.

CheapBastard's picture

Don't worry. They should have MOST of the kinks out by next week. And they're training another crew right now should be ready to fly in a week.

Nutsack's picture
Nutsack (not verified) CheapBastard Mar 19, 2016 7:31 AM

"We had some folks Dubai'd"

nmewn's picture

It was orbiting for two hours? Did I read that right and tried once unsuccessfully to land?

Pilot: "Look tower, we're flying on fumes here. We're coming down one way or the other."

Lorca's Novena's picture

That was my first reaction as well, once I read it was on its 2nd landing approach while waiting for 2 hours to land....fishy.

nmewn's picture

Clearly a malfunction with the detonator on the first attempt ;-)

Transformer's picture

Coming in at that steep an angle means the plane stalled.  Airspeed is groundspeed + windspeed.  In gusty conditions a plane can suddenly go from comfortably above stall speed to slower than stall speed.  When stalled the plane plummets at a very steep angle.

An airliner needs thousands of feet of altitude to recover froma stall.  A stall on landing approach is lethal.

goBackToSleep's picture

That doesn't look like Shanksville, PA! The ratio of debris to ..... oh wait..............If we subrtact for the mass of a cruise missile, eureka bitchez!

Sorry for the interuption in your regularly scheduled programming........

Dutti's picture

Unfortunately I have to disagree with most of the above comments, I don’t see anything fishy.

I assume it’s a combination of pilot error and bad weather. The plane arrives at two AM in the area, has trouble landing because of night, rain but mostly because of strong wind. After two hours of circling and waiting for decent landing conditions, the pilot is tired, stressed and feels under pressure. In hindsight, the risk he is taking is too big and some unfortunate wind gust/shear is sealing the faith of passengers and crew.


MagicHandPuppet's picture

@Dutti - all of that sounds plausible.  But, in the crash video, I see a bright flash of light coming down at about a 45 degree angle.  I don't care how tired someone is... that's not an attempted landing.

Dutti's picture

Magic HP: You make a good point, I cannot explain away your reasoning. We'll see what transpires later on...

BlindMonkey's picture

The Dutch have nothing to do with this so I suppose there is a good chance to learn the complete story.

hansg's picture

While I completely understand that comment, please know that just about everyone in the Netherlands is furious about what our government is doing here.

TwoShortPlanks's picture

FDR/CVR casings, although very tough, can be compromised in high impact incidents. Compromised casings means the fluid used to cool the interior (1,000Deg for 30min) can fail. Incidents with low forward velocities tend to keep the debris within the fuel footprint, therefore they burn. This incident had low horizontal velocity but significant vertical velocity; high enouh to have damaged the FDR/CVR.

The debris field was very strange; near-complete disintegration. Not even an empanage/tail section. Almost as though the aircraft stalled and fell from much higher or had really high vertical velocity. This is not something you'd expect to see from an aircraft on approach. Even Tatarstan Airlines Flight 363, a 737 which put into a nose dive, still had significant structure intact.

LibertarianMenace's picture

Bingo. We'll see if this video gets scrubbed to eliminate the part where the plane was in flames PRIOR to hitting the ground.

undertow1141's picture

Its hard to tell if those were landing lights or it was on fire already. After watching 30 times, I'm leaning towards fire and lights. Its coming down on its side nearly straight down like a wing came off.

nflux's picture

yeah that plane was going almost straight down. Don't see how the bright reflection on the ground could be landing lights either. 

Perth_Australia's picture

But the video also shows the contradiction in the theorized bad weather being responsible. The tree's are not moving at all and the visibility is more than enough for a pilot to make a safe landing.

The cars driving past in the video, show nothing in the headlights, no rain, no fog, no leaves blowing.

Although, obviously, the first attempted landing was cancelled due to bad weather, this video shows that it had cleared up drastically.

zeronetwork's picture

after reading comments I realized how many plan crash experts are ZH regular members.

Nutsack's picture
Nutsack (not verified) zeronetwork Mar 19, 2016 10:34 AM

People plan crashes? The experts do?

HowdyDoody's picture

Negative wind shear - it is deadly. It can result in total loss of headwind, and lift, in a very short period of time. The angle of descent was about 45 degrees which is consistent with loss of most or all headwind.


Citxmech's picture

If it crashed on the runway, it wasn't wind shear.  If it stalled on approach it would not have been that high over any part of the runway.  Also, why was it on fire before it hit the grouind?

fockewulf190's picture

It looks almost identical to what happened to Delta Flight 191 back in 1985.  Back then, it was flying in bad weather, and had been hit by a microburst while on final approach to Dallas Ft. Worth.   This video is compelling.  Notice the sudden drop in altitude (and the attitude of the DC-10) as the microburst pushes the aircraft down as the aircraft is short final to the runway.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dKwyU1RwPto

Full episode here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pADVkfv1PDU

I heard that before this aircraft crashed, the previous aircraft tried to land 3 times and was then finally diverted to another airport.  This explains why the Flydubai aircraft was holding for so long; it had to wait because the aircraft before it flew three missed approaches.  After burning up so much fuel flying in the holding pattern, and itself having to abort a landing and flying a missed approach, it was probably so low on fuel that it did not have enough fuel for a diversion, let alone a third approach, anymore.  It was then forced to land in bad weather and was either hit by a microburst on final approach, or the engines cut out on final approach because of fuel starvation, or both. 

Joe Tierney's picture

No fuel starvation here - what do you think caused the huge fireball on impact? Jet fuel, and lots of it!

COSMOS's picture

Hey fockewolfe there was a good comment on that delta video...

When flying a jet aircraft, you rarely if ever use full power because it will overspeed the engines and causes them to wear out sooner. The FO knew this, and when the captain said "Push it up, push it way up, way up" the FO was increasing power, but not to full as is required in this scenario. I had a professor who used to fly Learjets, and in his training from the beginning (back in the early 80's) it was stated that if you enter a microburst, you disregard any limits on utilizing max thrust. You should apply FULL power, pitch up until hearing the stall horn (or stick shaker), and hold that condition until you have exited the microburst. It is important to remember that some of the strongest microbursts ever recorded had a reported downward velocity of nearly 18,000' per minute! Far exceeding the maximum climb ability of nearly all aircraft.

fockewulf190's picture

"No fuel starvation here - what do you think caused the huge fireball on impact? Jet fuel, and lots of it!"

It´s possible, but you can´t rule out yet the explosive force which would happen when empty tanks filled with fuel vapor detonate (for example, the empty center fuel tank explosion on TWA Flight 800), or even blocked fuel lines.  In the video above, the Flydubai aircraft looked like it was either in a complete stall, or it was pushed into the ground by a microburst, but as we know from past accidents, the craziest of circumstances can cause a plane to crash.  The flight data and cockpit voice recorders should easily point to the cause of this crash, but there are no guarentees.

Northern Flicker's picture

"empty center fuel tank explosion on TWA Flight 800"

Lot's of doubt about that situation - more like a coverup.



cheech_wizard's picture

Perhaps someone with an avionics background can correct me. I seem to remember the glide ratio for Boeings (commercial passenger jets) is something like 1 foot forward to 10 feet down. Even if that is the case, shouldn't the pilot have been able to keep the nose up? The first video seems to show it plunging nose first into the ground.

Something doesn't pass the smell test, as usual.

Paveway IV's picture

I think you mean 1 foot down/10 feet forward, cheech. That's something like 6°. That would only make sense in the context of the aircraft gliding without power, which is not the same as the glide slope used on an instrument landing approach. The unpowered glide slope for an aircraft is still useful for a pilot to know in case their engines do stop and they have to figure out where to land and how far they can glide.

For normal landings (with engines) pilots can either eyeball their approach or choose to use some kind of electronic navigation to make their final descent. FZ981 was using Rostov's instrument landing system, which has an electronic glide slope built in - probably around 3° or so. It's up to the pilot (or autopilot) to adjust the aircraft speed and pitch to intercept that glide slope and follow it to the runway. The intercept that electronic glide slope around 2000' and a few miles out from the runway at Rostov.

On his last approach, the pilot decided not to land at about 1500', so he was already in the glideslope following it down to land. When the decision is made to go around, the cockpit crew carries out a number of tasks - the primary one is to increase speed, which will reverse the descent and pitch the nose up slightly as the plane climbs. FZ981 climbed to around 4000' and then plummeted to the ground. Exactly why it did that is only speculation at this point, but it may have been some combination of downdrafts/wind shear, the aircraft attempting to do what it's being told to do by the pilot, and the pilot trying to keep the aircraft flying. 

At low speeds - like well under 200 kts (230mph) during this approach - the ascent/descent of the aircraft is mostly a function of engine thrust, not nose pitch. One reason an aircraft could climb/dive like FZ981 is if too much engine thrust is applied when going around. No idea if this is specifically what happened in this case - I'm just describing one possibility of dozens. The pilot could call for too much engine thrust during go-around while the plane is configured to maintain a set speed. The aircraft senses that its going too fast (because of the extra thrust) and responds by raising the nose of the aircraft to slow it down. If the aircraft is then subject to strong, unexpected headwind followed by an equally unexpect strong tailwind, the aircraft is going to stop flying. Either the pilot or autopilot will drop it the nose in attempt to regain airspeed, but it may be too late to do anything by then.

To make matters worse, the aircraft is now in hazy/misty air at 4000' at night and the ground is no longer visible. If the wind is at a screwed-up angle, then one wing stalls before the other. The aircraft is now dropping like a rock nose-down and rolling to one side, and the pilot may have lost ground reference. If the downdraft made the plane stop flying (in an aerodynamic sense), it wouldn't have mattered if he (or the autopilot) dropped the nose or not - the stall may be unrecoverable at that point.

We won't know a thing until they examine the flight recorders though, so take this all with a grain of salt. I'm just tyring to explain a scenario where the aircraft would climb (perhaps too quckly) on a go-around to 4000' and then end up nose-down at 45° and dropping like a rock despite the best efforts of the pilot/autopilot to keep the thing in the air.

Tall Tom's picture

An airliner needs thousands of feet of altitude to recover froma stall.  A stall on landing approach is lethal.


I listened to the last conversation as recorded by the tower..


I did not hear the audible Stall Warning initiate.


You are correct about a stall on approach being catastrophic. (Not necessarily lethal be really bad outcomes.)


What about other causes? Or why was the stall warning turned off?


Good post.


QQQBall's picture

High winds? The branches on the trees are not moving.

COSMOS's picture

Winds speeds can be significant a few hundred feet above and nothing on the ground.

Max Cynical's picture

Holding for 2 hours? Can't imagine why they didn't divert to their alternate.

RafterManFMJ's picture

They were afraid.

The alternate was chock full of snow plows and they are more deadly to aircraft than barrage balloons.

Dirtnapper's picture

Their Alt may have been closed as well.  Question is why did Flydubia allow them to proceed at all?  At the worst case scenerio where the pilots found they were screwed at their alt as well after going missed approach on the first attempt, I don't understand why the company didn't dirvert them out of there.  They are required to have enough fuel onboard to go to their alt and then some minutes fo flight time afterwards (under FAR Part 121.646 it's to the alt plus 15 holding at 1,500 AGL and then enough fuel to shoot a normal approach and landing so about 30 minutes).

Paveway IV's picture

From the report in The Avaiation Herald

Crash: Flydubai B738 at Rostov on Don on Mar 19th 2016, struck wing onto runway after holding for 2 hours

...A Flydubai Boeing 737-800, registration A6-FDN performing flight FZ-981 from Dubai (United Arab Emirates) to Rostov on Don (Russia) with 55 passengers and 7 crew, had aborted the approach to Rostov's runway 22 at 01:41L (22:41Z) due to weather and entered a hold initially at 8000 feet...

Nothin unusual about that if the weather/winds sucked. The coltrol tower knows in general what the weather/winds are at the control tower and not precisely what they are three miles before the end of the runway. The 'due to weather' part could be a lot of things besides wind - like visibility or icing. We don't know, but the pilots would have told the control tower why they aborted the approach. Since they were put in a holding pattern at 8000 ft, they (or the control tower) expected them to attempt another landing.

The fact that other aircraft were diverting is meaningless since we don't know aircrart types, fuel or pilot experience. These pilots had plenty of experience and are not likely to have hung around if they didn't think they could land their aircraft safely despite the conditions or what other aircraft were doing. You don't get 5000 hrs. of flight time in commercial airliners being a cowboy.

...after 30 minutes at 8000 feet the aircraft climbed to FL150...

8000 to 15,000 ft. - holding at higher altitude. Could have been a lot of reasons. Turbulence at 8000 ft., air traffic, etc. The implication is that they expected the weather conditions to become favorable relatively soon after their first go-around, and still did after 30 min. - they just went to a higher/different holding pattern to wait.

...After about 2 hours of holding the aircraft commenced another approach to Rostov's runway 22, winds from 240 degrees at 27 knots (14 m/s) gusting 42 knots (22 m/s)...

Gusty as hell, but well within what an experienced pilot in a 737 could handle. Again, their call. They were landing almost directly into the wind, which is far easier than a gusty crosswind. The wind would have been pushing the aircraft to the left side of the runway on approach, which the pilots would have to counter.  

...the crew announced a go around...

We'll eventually find out why they did this, but it's not abnormal in and of itself. It may not have been the exact same reason as the first time, but weather was obviously a factor. Pilots are always prepared to go around during landing. The crew announced the go around calmly to the tower, so it's not like they were surprised or paniking.

...the aircraft however struck a wing onto the runway at about 03:43L (00:43Z), broke up and burst into flames. There are no survivors...

You can't read too much into the 'wing into runway' - that's airport official-speak for 'crashed' = didn't land on it's wheels. That sould be pretty obvious from the security cam footage. It does not mean literally that a wing hit the runway surface first, but that certaily could have happened. One way of looking at the security cam footage gives the impression the aircraft was banking left while plummeting down, i.e, we were seeing the bottom of the aircraft and navigation/landing lights. I suppose it could have been in flames, but the pilots usually get a little more excited about that. I doubt they would calmly tell the tower they were going around if that was the case.  

...The aircraft carried fuel for trip, contingency, alternate, final fuel reserve (30 minutes) and additional holding for about 2:30 hours, total fuel for an endurance of about 8.5 hours. The aircraft had been airborne until time of impact for 06:02 hours...

So any speculation about 'running out of fuel' can be laid to rest. These were experienced pilots. If it would have been a pain in the ass to divert somewhere, then the pilots still could have held over the airport for another additional hour or so waiting for the weather cosidering the fuel. I doubt they would have after this attempt though. It may have been a last shot before they diverted somewhere else, which would have been prudent and still left them plenty of fuel. They had 2.5 hours of fuel left a the end, but the had almost 5 hours of fuel when they initially tried to land. 

...Russia's Ministry of Emergencies reported that more than 700 people and more than 100 vehicles have been deployed to the crash scene for search and recovery operations following the aircraft crash. The aircraft struck a wing onto the runway on touch down and began to disintegrate.

Russia's MAK (Interstate Aviation Committee, Accident Investigation Board) reported the aircraft broke up and burst into flames upon touching ground, debris is spread over a large area (several kilometers). An investigation has been opened. Both black boxes were recovered in good condition, work to read out the blackboxes has already started...

The airline confirmed the aircraft crashed on landing in Rostov, there were fatalities...

Again, the description of the crash is official-speak for 'it crashed into the runway', not a detailed crash investigation. 

...Radar data suggest the aircraft on final approach was to the left of the localizer and just to the left of the left runway edge and corrected to the right while over the runway bringing the aircraft just within the runway edges during the flare...

So, nothing unusual about that either at first glance considering the winds. It just means the aircraft was lined up approximately correct on its approach. There was obviously no 'flare' since the pilots were not attempting to land the aircraft at that point. The radar guys are just describing what they would have expected the aircraft to be doing that close to the runway, not what it was actually doing.

Given this little bit of information, the proximity to the runway and the transponder info (unreliable) that the aircraft ascended and descended unusually quickly, one could speculate that the winds sucked on their approach, they announced a go around and encountered a microburst/gust/wind shear immediately after that. The pilots would have been increasing the aircraft speed and starting their ascent for the go around. If extreme winds were encountered right at that time, the aircraft could have pitched up and stalled too close to the ground for the pilots to recover. They could have pitched the nose down in an attempt to recover.

If the aircraft was rolling left, the pilots would have also could have been applying left rudder. An aerodynamic stall at that point with wacky winds could have made the aircraft appear to be diving nose-first at a steep angle. It's possible for one wing to stall (or stall first) in certain extreme situations. The pilots are usually making sure the aircraft is not vulnerable to anything like that given the conditions. All we have now is the crappy security cam footage, so it's impossible to tell even what the attitude of the aircraft was when it hit the ground. One thing for sure: experienced pilots landing in these conditions are not idiots. Speculating what happened pisses off other pilots because it often leaves the impression that they don't expect these kind of things to happen or were not prepared. They're always prepared for these kind of things as much as possible and the automation aspect of the aircraft is not really an issue here - the pilots know how to control their aircraft during landing and don't take stupid risks with a 737.

It also takes several seconds for a large jet engine to increase its thrust - you can't just 'gun the engines' and blast your way out of trouble like in the movies. Normally, the pilots make sure they have a large enough margin of safety that they can handle things like a sudden wind gust during landing. It gets a bit more complicated in situations like a microburst where you encounter what are essentially huge wind gusts with vertical components coming at you from different angles one right after the other. Microburst are often associated with storms at or near the approach end of the runway. No indication of that here - just gusty winds. No mystery though - the black boxes will eventually fill in the details of what the aircraft/pilots were doing in the last seconds. 

My apologies to all the pilots that get pissed off when some idiot like me makes these wild-assed guesses about what happened when 62 families have yet to bury their relatives. 

thatthingcanfly's picture

Paveway, this is consistent with my take as well. See my comments interspersed below.

It's normal for some of us to opine on what happened soon after the event. It's NOT normal to, as some posters in this thread have done, begin cracking jokes about it.

COSMOS's picture

One is well trained until they aren't

Blankone's picture

Plane struck wing while attempted landng and lined up approximately normal for approach.  At a 45 degree decent angle and at high speed?

If this is clipping a wing on landing then every crash including those shot down clipped a wing on landing.

Frozen's picture

Paveway, I always appreciate your comments.

aVileRat's picture

Top gun reply. Posts like this is why ZH delivers on quality of commentary /community vs. the rabble.


Xibalba's picture

real planes that crash leave debris.  Lots and lots, not just papers and a passport or two. 

lakecity55's picture

Read my comment above. You should be fine.

Good travel. I've flown out of there on FD several times.

Dame Ednas Possum's picture

Sure. As I'm based in Dubai I fly FZ several times a month and have done for several years.

Still disconcerting.

Ms No's picture

Bring a parchute and sit by the emergency exit.  Whatever you do don't sit next to an Israeli, Turk, or Saud because they are terrorists.  If you have to abandon ship you will likely end up plastered up against the plane or in an engine but it's still better odds than sitting next to one of them.

Dame Ednas Possum's picture

Clearly you are a deep thinker.

And no doubt you are very proud of your contribution.

Ms No's picture

Don't be so cranky.  Life isn't worth living if you don't have a laugh every now and then anyway.  Your going to be fine, if you feel otherwise then don't go.