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Russia grounds AN-148s, crash audio released

The grounding comes just over a month after the crash of Saratov Airlines Flight 703 near Moscow.

Just over a month after the crash of Saratov Airlines Flight 703 near Moscow, killing all 71 passengers and crew on board, Russia has grounded all of the Antonov An-148 aircraft in the country.

The aircraft type was grounded due to continuing safety fears, as the cause of the crash may have been equipment failure.

The regional jet fell to the ground minutes after departing Domodedovo Airport on February 11. Cockpit recordings reveal the captain ordering his co-pilot to gain altitude instead of tilting the plane downwards, The Moscow Times reports.

Investigators say the crash occurred because of different speed readings on the displays, brought on by frozen equipment.

“We ordered to suspend An-148 flights in all airlines that operate them,” said Viktor Basargin, head of Russia’s transport safety watchdog Rostransnadzor, according to the state-run TASS news agency.

Rossiya Airlines operates six of the Ukrainian-made regional jets, Irkutsk-based Angara Airlines has five and Saratov Airlines four, while Russia’s Aerospace Forces operate 12. The order also grounds Saratov Airlines’ entire fleet. An-148s are operated outside Russia by airlines in Cuba, Ukraine and North Korea but these are not affected by the decision.

Captain’s last words
Meanwhile, cockpit recordings published by Russia’s RBC business news reveal the last words on Flight 703 between captain Valery Gubanov and co-pilot Sergei Gambaryan.

He frantically tries to tell his co-pilot to gain altitude instead of tilting the plane downwards.

As the warning system alerts the pilots to “compare speed”, the captain says, “I understood you wanted to […] but instead you’re going down”.

“Why are you going down? Where? […] Altitude! Altitude! Altitude! […] Up!”, Gubanov commands as the warning system warns, “Terrain ahead! Pull Up!”

The recording cuts off after the captain is heard saying, “That’s it, we’re ******.”

According to the 78.ru website, the co-pilot forgot to turn on the plane’s pressure measurement equipment, something the website describes as “a painfully typical situation.”

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