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Monday, 26 November, 2001, 18:00 GMT
Pilots criticise Zurich crash runway
Crash site
The plane crashed in woodland
Swiss investigators are reported not to suspect foul play as the cause of Saturday's plane crash outside Zurich, which killed 24 people.

Crossair Flight LX3597, which had taken off from Berlin, came down in snow-covered woods on its approach to Zurich airport.

Landing (on runway 28) at night in bad weather is as demanding as driving a car with only a handbrake

Pilot Bruno Dobler
Nine people survived the crash by scrambling from the burning wreckage.

Both flight recorders from the plane, a Avro RJ-100, have been recovered from the scene, three kilometres (two miles) from the airport.

One focus for the investigation is why the pilot, who was among the dead, was apparently flying too low.

Other attention is being focused on the runway, number 28, which has reportedly been unpopular with pilots since it came into use for many night flights four weeks ago.

Rescue worker and burnt plane fuselage
Nine people scrambled from the burning wreckage
"I have always criticised runway 28," one pilot, Bruno Dobler, has been quoted as telling a Swiss paper.

"Landing there at night in bad weather is as demanding as driving a car with only a handbrake."

The approach has to be used after 2100GMT for flights from the west, to reduce noise disturbance.

But the runway does not have the same high-tech systems as the airport's two other runways, including key equipment on altitude.

I think we must take a stand and say 'No!' whenever these criminal, noise abatement death traps are issued

Contributor to pilots' website
Contributors to the pilots' website the Professional Pilots Rumour Network also said the approach could be a tricky one, especially in the poor weather which had hit the area at the time of the crash.

Some pilots said reducing noise had taken priority over safety.

"I think we must take a stand and say 'No!' whenever these criminal, noise abatement death traps are issued," wrote one contributor.

The runway was closed on Sunday while the investigators continue with their work.

It was like in a horror film, a nightmare

Survivor Myriam Wettstein
The co-pilot also died in the crash.

The dead passengers included US pop star Melanie Thornton, and two senior Israeli doctors, Professor Yaacov Matzner and Professor Amiram Eldor.

Most of those on board were Swiss and German, but Dutch, Austrian, Canadian, Ghanaian, Spanish and Swedish passengers were also being carried.

Will it never end?

Swiss President Moritz Leuenberger
The crash comes as the European airline industry has been attempting to cope with the aftermath of the 11 September attacks.

And Switzerland itself has been hit by a series of tragedies over recent months.

The first came in September, when 13 members of a local parliament in Zug died in a gun massacre.

In October, a crash and fire in the Gotthard tunnel claimed 11 lives and cut off a key Alpine transport link.

The collapse of Swissair - then Crossair's owner - in early October was also a serious blow to national pride.

"Will it never end?" Swiss President Moritz Leuenberger asked at a news conference about the crash.


Two survivors of the Zurich crash were said to be in critical condition.

"It was like in a horror film, a nightmare," said one of the injured, Myriam Wettstein.

The RJ-100 is a four-engine jet built by BAE Systems Plc, formerly British Aerospace.

Crossair spokesman Patrick Jeandrain said all the company's other 19 Jumbolino aircraft would be tested before resuming flights.

The BBC's Tony Morris
"There are no indications this was a terrorist attack"
Chris Yates, Jane's Defence
"This has come at a very bad time"
Crossair spokesman
"The fatalities seem to have come from the middle of the plane"
See also:

26 Nov 01 | Music
US singer dead in Swiss crash
24 Nov 01 | World
Air disaster timeline
22 Oct 01 | Business
State saves Swissair
22 Nov 01 | Business
Round-up: Aviation in crisis
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