'Wake turbulence' likely cause of plane crash

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The Turkish pilots association says wake turbulence appears to be the most significant possibility for the cause of Wednesday’s crash.

ISTANBUL – The Turkish pilots' association said Friday the Turkish jet that crashed near Amsterdam appeared to be the victim of "wake turbulence," raising questions over whether air controllers warned the pilot.

Wake turbulence describes the invisible, tornado-like currents caused by large jets that can hit a trailing airplane, especially a smaller one.

"This appears to be the most significant possibility" for the cause of Wednesday's crash, which claimed nine lives, association chairman Ali Ziya Yilmaz told a televised news conference.

Yilmaz said they had obtained information that a Boeing 757, an aircraft "with the most dangerous wake turbulence," landed at Schiphol airport two minutes before the Turkish Airlines plane crashed.

"We are now asking whether the air control tower warned our plane that a jet with a strong wake turbulence was ahead of them? Did they secure the necessary space between the two planes? What was the length of that space?" senior association member, Savas Sen, said.

"We want to know the answers of those questions because the records of tower communication are not accessible yet," he said.

The association played down the possibility of an engine failure on the grounds that available flight data indicated an abrupt loss of speed.

"This means the plane must have lost an altitude of 1,500 metres in one minute... A stalled engine will not cause that," Sen said.

Yilmaz charged that the Dutch authorities were highlighting the possibility of an engine failure, without mentioning the wake turbulence scenario.

The association also called for an explanation concerning media reports that one of the pilots was still alive when rescuers arrived at the scene, but was not helped.

All three pilots died.

The Boeing 737-800, en route from Istanbul to Amsterdam with 127 passengers and seven crew, crashed into a muddy field as it came in to land at Schiphol airport, breaking into three pieces.

Turkish officials have branded the low death toll a "miracle," while some aviation experts have described the crash-landing as an example of masterful pilotage to limit damage.

Survivors said everything happened in a flash at the end of a seemingly normal flight, while witnesses described seeing the tail hit the edge of a busy road and drag along the ground before the plane broke into pieces.

The officially identified victims included also a Turkish flight attendant and four Americans, among them two Boeing employees, who happened to be on the flight.

Initial data from the plane's black box is expected by early this week.

AFP / Expatica

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