Kazakhstan: Second Fatal Air Crash Raises Safety Concerns
Kazakhstan suffered its second fatal plane crash in just over a month on January 29, when a domestic passenger flight arriving in Almaty crashed in bad weather, killing all 21 people aboard.
The SCAT Airlines Bombardier Challenger CRJ-200 crashed at around 1:00 p.m. as it was landing at Almaty airport in heavy fog, hitting the ground five kilometers outside Kazakhstan’s financial capital, the prosecutor’s office said in a statement. The statement contained a preliminary list of the dead: five crew members and 16 passengers who were on the flight from the northern town of Kokshetau.
The prosecutor’s office said it had already opened a criminal case into the crash, the second in the space of just over a month: On December 25, a military aircraft crashed near Shymkent, killing all 27 people on board. The dead included the acting head of Kazakhstan’s Border Service, Turganbek Stambekov, and other senior border officials.
An investigation blamed technical failure combined with pilot error for that crash, which, like today’s disaster, occurred in bad weather. Kazakhstan’s airports are frequently closed due to adverse weather conditions, but – despite heavy fog blanketing the city on January 29 – Almaty airport was open for business.
Concerns are frequently aired about the safety records of Kazakh airlines. In 2009 the EU blacklisted all the country’s airlines (including SCAT) with the exception of the flagship national carrier Air Astana, which says it adheres to European safety standards. Air Astana is jointly owned by the Kazakh government and UK defense giant BAE Systems.
President Nursultan Nazarbayev was quick to express condolences over the latest crash, and to order his government to get to the bottom of the cause, indicating that this second fatal air disaster in just over a month has put air safety firmly on Astana’s agenda.