Probe continues into doomed Russian flight

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Probe continues into doomed Russian flight

From Comcast SportsNet Friday, September 9, 2011

MOSCOW (AP) -- All three engines on a Russian jet that slammed into a riverbank were operating up until the moment of the crash and the plane's stabilizer and flaps were in a proper position for takeoff, Russian experts said Friday.

Still, the Moscow-based Interstate Aviation Committee, which is conducting the crash probe, had no conclusions yet about the cause of the crash that killed 43 people, mostly members of a top Russian ice hockey team.

The comments came as aviation experts examined flight data recorders from the crashed plane and began safety checks Friday on Yak-42 jets nationwide.

The chartered Yak-42 jet crashed Wednesday into the sides of the Volga River on a sunny, clear day moments after taking off near Yaroslavl, a city 150 miles (240 kilometers) northeast of Moscow.

It was one of the worst aviation disasters ever in sports, shocking Russia and the world of hockey, for among the dead were 36 players, coaches and staff of the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl hockey team. The team had been heading to Minsk, Belarus, to play its opening game of the Kontinental Hockey League season.

Two men survived the crash -- player Alexander Galimov and crew member Alexander Sizov -- but they were in critical condition Friday, both in medicated comas after being transferred to Moscow for treatment. Hospital officials said Galimov had burns over 90 percent of his body.

The Interstate Aviation Committee said magnetic tapes holding the flight information in the data recorders were wet, but its experts have begun deciphering those segments that have dried out, learning about the engines. The committee didn't specify, however, whether the engines were giving the full thrust.

The Tunoshna airport's runway was three times longer than required for that type of plane but the plane had still failed to accelerate sufficiently before takeoff, Russian Deputy Transport Minister Valery Okulov said.

Authorities were also checking fuel supplies at the Tunoshna airport, suspecting that low quality fuel could have caused the crash. The airport has been allowed to resume operations but planes were barred from using local fuel.

Yaroslavl Gov. Sergei Vakhrukov, however, insisted that the fuel couldn't have been the cause, since another plane using the same fuel had flown without any problems.

The crashed jet was built in 1993 and one of its three engines was replaced a month ago, transportation officials said.

Aviation authorities also were running safety checks on all the approximately 60 Yak-42 jets currently in service in Russia, which was expected to lead to disruptions in service. An Associated Press reporter was among the passengers ordered to disembark Friday from a Yak-42 jet bound on an internal flight from Moscow.

In Yaroslavl, where there has been an outpouring of public grief over the deaths of the hockey players, a memorial service was to be held Saturday at the team's arena. Several squads from the Kontinental Hockey League were traveling to Yaroslavl to take part.

Thousands of fans have already come to the Yaroslavl arena to pay their respects, laying mounds of red roses and carnations outside its walls.

President Dmitry Medvedev has called for sweeping reforms to Russia's aviation industry, including replacing aging Russian jets with Western planes.

Experts blame Russia's poor aviation safety record on an aging fleet, weak government controls, poor pilot training and a cost-cutting mentality.

Curran: Can we swear off the stupid questions?

Curran: Can we swear off the stupid questions?

FOXBORO  -- To think there’d be no further questions about the Tom Brady-Jimmy Garoppolo dynamic when Brady’s four-game suspension ends would be moronic.

Bill Belichick won’t like them. He’s destined to give them the verbal Heisman. But there are aspects to the story which demand further interrogation.

So there’s those questions. And then there’s baiting for the sake of baiting, which is what happened Friday morning.

A reporter asked Belichick, “You said Tom will start when he’s eligible. Can you think of an occasion when you named a Week 5 starter in July?”

“Yeah, I don’t know,” Belichick said.

“What happens if Jimmy plays better?”

“Look, I told you what’s gonna happen,” Belichick answered.

Pressing on, the reporter began, “So there’s no, there’s, there’s . . . ”

At that point, with Belichick reacting like he’d come open a month-old-corpse and muttering, “Jesus Christ," the reporter cut himself off.

I’ve been trying to steer clear of the media ombudsman business. But this stuff makes it hard. The first question was obtuse in the extreme. I don’t even know how that gets formulated.
This is not a Brady-Bledsoe scenario.

You have the best quarterback of his generation who – 17 months ago – took down what was supposed to be one of the great defenses in NFL history in the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl. A guy who got smashed all over the field in Denver at the age of 38 and still almost pulled out a win last January.

When that guy’s cleared to play, you sprint him onto the field regardless of the circumstances.

“If Jimmy plays better . . . ”? Better than what? Better than 11 touchdowns, no picks, 116-for-160 and 1,547 yards, which is what Brady did in the first four games last season? Better than Brady played in Denver while getting his head caved in every other play?

I understand that sometimes you have to ask the dumb question to get something on the record, but this was not that. This seemed like someone who really thought he was onto something. Was going to paint Belichick into an uncomfortable corner and hang him with his own words.

Sorry, counselor.

Now, you and I can sit on the front stoop and wonder what happens if Garoppolo plays ridiculously well then Brady comes back and spends four weeks playing like he’s never been on a field before and is clearly an impediment to the team’s success.

Won’t happen. But we can talk about it.

Asking Belichick if he’s gonna go with the hot hand when two days prior he told you what he was going to do is asking for a JC response.

Belichick probably figured that stating Brady was the Week 5 starter before he was asked was the best way to defuse idle speculation. “We’ll see . . . ” or “We always do what’s best for the football team . . . ” would have ignited a thousand hours of conversation about the budding quarterback controversy in New England.

Belichick now knows that the speculation and scenario spinning is coming anyway. JC may hear his name muttered a few more times from the podium between now and October.