Russian and international investigators said the pilots of Flydubai flight 981 climbed to approximately 3,000 ft. on the second aborted approach at Rostov-on-Don Airport early on March 19 before an unknown event caused the Boeing 737-800 carrying 62 passengers and crew to crash.
According to an April 8 update by Russia’s Interstate Aviation Committee (IAC), weather conditions when the aircraft first approached the airport at 1:42 a.m. local time were challenging.
Although the cloud bases were relatively high—2,067 ft.—there was “severe” turbulence and “moderate” wind shear with sustained winds of 25 kt. and gusts to 35 kt. Conditions on the ground included light rain showers and mist, with a temperature of 0 degrees Celsius (32 degrees Fahrenheit).
From the recovered flight data recorder information, the IAC said pilots were hand-flying the aircraft on the first approach. When descending through approximately 1,000 ft., they received a wind shear alert and performed a go-around, climbing to a higher altitude and holding in the hopes that the weather would improve. The IAC said the pilots held valid pilot licenses and “other pertinent papers,” had “sufficient flight experience” and had undergone the required training.
Approximately 90 min. after the first approach, pilots attempted a second hand-flown approach to Runway 22, but decided to abort when descending through approximately 700 ft., 2 nm from the runway end. The pilots initiated a go-around with full takeoff power, according to the IAC.
Surveillance video from multiple locations around the airport shows flight 981 climbing into the overcast cloud deck and reemerging 34 sec. later in a high-speed, steep nose-down attitude, impacting the ground close to the intended landing point.
The flight data recorder filled in some of the blanks: The aircraft climbed to approximately 2,950 ft. where “there was a simultaneous control column nose-down input and a stabilizer 5-deg. nose-down deflection, resulting in (an) abrupt descent” with a -1g vertical acceleration.
“The following crew actions to recover did not allow (the aircraft) to avoid and impact with the ground,” the IAC said, adding that the final speed was 323 kt. with a 50-deg. nose-down pitch attitude.
The IAC in its March 29 update said the flight data recorder did no show evidence of any failures of aircraft systems, components or engines.
In addition to “clarifying the content” of the cockpit voice recorder, from which investigators recovered 2 hr. of recordings, the IAC said airline pilots and test pilots from Russia, the US and the United Arab Emirates are assessing the flight data and actions of the crew.