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.

Blakely: Game 4 loss shows just how much Celtics miss Isaiah

Blakely: Game 4 loss shows just how much Celtics miss Isaiah

CLEVELAND --  Down the stretch in Game 4, the Celtics were desperate for someone, anyone, who could slow down Kyrie Irving.
 
But short of that, Boston could have used an offensive closer, too. You know, someone like Isaiah Thomas.

GAME 4: CAVS 112, CELTICS 99

 

The Celtics have relied on the two-time All-Star to carry much of the offensive burden this season, but he was almost always at his best in the fourth quarter.
 
A right hip injury knocked him out of this series after 1 1/2 games. Still, Boston managed to win Game 3 without him and, for large chunks of Tuesday night, seemed poised to beat the Cavs again on their home floor.
 
But as much as Game 4 was a reminder of just how special a talent Irving is (42 points, 21 in the third quarter when the game’s momentum swung in Cleveland's favor), it also provided a clue to the clueless who thought the Celtics were actually better without Isaiah Thomas.
 
Defensively?
 
Absolutely.
 
It’s no secret that teams go to great lengths to try and use his 5-foot-9 stature against him. And as we have seen, the deeper we get into the postseason the more trouble he and the Celtics seem to encounter from a defensive standpoint.
 
But just as we praise Irving for being such a special talent, Thomas has shown that he, too, has offensive gifts that, throughout this season, have left many fans, media and defenders befuddled as to how “the little fella” keeps coming up with one big play, one big shot after another.
 
But as we have learned, he has been dealing with a sore right hip injury for several weeks. The pain and discomfort eventually became too much to bear and so the Celtics did the right thing and shut him down.
 
Without him, the C's are still a good team that on any given night can knock off anyone, even the defending champs.
 
But as Game 4 reminded us, they need Thomas in order to be their best.
 
When Irving torched Boston’s entire defense with jumpers, ankle-breaking crossovers, Euro-step lay-ups and free throws, the Celtics had no one to turn to who could maybe, just maybe, go back at Irving at the other end of the floor.
 
That's what Thomas does that makes him such a special, unique talent in this league.
 
He can score in a variety of ways, with the best in the NBA.
 
We saw that this past season, when he led all players in the Eastern Conference in scoring with a 28.9 points-per-game average.
 
Boston’s excellent ball movement and high assist numbers are certainly important to the team’s success. But to make a deep and meaningful playoff run, you need one or two guys who can just go get buckets regardless of what the opponent does defensively.
 
That’s not Avery Bradley.
 
That’s not Al Horford.
 
That’s not Kelly Olynyk.
 
You can search, poke and prod this roster all you want, and you'll come up empty when it comes to finding a player like that . . . other than Isaiah Thomas.
 
The fact the Celtics were able to avoid getting swept is a victory of sorts in itself. Boston’s coaching staff, as well as the front office, has repeatedly said that as talented as their team is, they aren’t on the same level of the defending champion Cavaliers.
 
And yet here we are four games into this series and the Celtics are basically a bad half of basketball away from being tied, 2-2.
 
It says a lot about their mental toughness, their ability to handle and navigate past adversity to give themselves a chance to be competitive against any team -- including the Cavs.
 
But their success this season has always been about the collective group, regardless of how many late-game shots Isaiah Thomas knocks down.
 
And while he has his shortcomings defensively, not having him available is going to hurt them in those late-game moments when they need a closer. It’s not a coincidence the Celtics were just 2-4 when he didn’t play during the regular season.
 
So as cool as it was for them to win Game 3 without Thomas, he’s still the straw that stirs the Celtics emotionally, bringing them to levels few think they're capable of reaching.
 
They were able to get by for one night without him, but remember this: It took Marcus Smart having an Isaiah Thomas-like game of 27 points and seven made 3’s, for them to win.
 
No one did anything remotely close to that Tuesday night.
 
They looked like the Isaiah Thomas-less Celtics, which is a look they don’t need this time of year.
 
Because that look is so not about winning.