Page last updated at 19:17 GMT, Thursday, 26 February 2009

Engine failure clue in jet crash

Wreck of Turkish Airlines plane at Schiphol
The plane crashed short of the runway where it had been due to land

Engine failure may have been a factor in Wednesday's crash of a Turkish Airlines plane at Amsterdam's Schiphol airport, the chief investigator says.

Pieter van Vollenhoven told Dutch state television that the way the aircraft fell directly from the sky suggested that its engines might have stalled.

Nine people were killed when the Boeing 737-800 crashed short of the runway.

A Dutch official said those killed were five Turks and four Americans. Six people remain in a critical condition.

Eighty-six people were injured altogether.

Mr Van Vollenhoven, chairman of the Dutch Safety Board, said a reason for the apparent engine failure had not yet been established.

That so many people were able to walk out was truly remarkable
Fred Sanders
Dutch Safety Board

"If you then lose speed, you then literally fall out of the sky," he was quoted as saying.

Dutch officials have taken the flight data and voice recorders to Paris, where French authorities are providing technical assistance.

Mr Van Vollenhoven said analysis of the recorders might be completed as early as Friday, but that the Dutch Safety Board would probably not announce any preliminary findings until next week.

"We hope to have a firmer grip as soon as possible," he told NOS television, adding that the information retrieved from the recorders was of high quality and would aid reconstruction of the accident.

Data analysis

The aircraft had been carrying 127 passengers and seven crew when it came down several hundred yards short of Schiphol airport's runway, about three hours after it left Istanbul's Ataturk airport.

It broke into three pieces on impact. Fire did not break out and within minutes those capable of walking began staggering out of the wreck.

Three of those killed were members of the crew. Dutch officials said most of the passengers on board had been Turkish.

Crash site

Theo Weterings, the mayor of the Haarlemmermeer district which includes Schiphol, said 63 injured passengers were still in care, six in a critical condition.

"Four of them are in such a severe condition that we have not been able to communicate with them," he told a news conference.

He said the priority was to identity the victims and inform their relatives.

Fred Sanders, a spokesman for the Dutch Safety Board, said it was remarkable that so many people had been able to walk out of the crash.

"Some have called it a miracle," he added.

Turkish Transport Minister Binali Yildirim also described the low death toll as miraculous.

"The fact that the plane landed on a soft surface and that there was no fire helped keep the number of fatalities low," he said.

Mr Sanders said the investigation at the scene of the crash would take a few days, after which the wreckage would be removed.

Pilot 'experienced'

The Turkish transport ministry said 78 Turkish nationals and 56 people of other nationalities had been on board the plane.

27 October 2005: A fire at the airport's detention centre killed 11 people and injured 15
4 April 1994: Three people were killed and 13 seriously injured when a KLM flight carrying 24 people crashed on landing
4 October 1992: An El Al Boeing 747 cargo plane crashed into an apartment block after takeoff, killing 43 people

Candan Karlitekin, head of Turkish Airlines' board of directors, said records showed the plane had been properly maintained. The pilot, a former Turkish air force officer, was highly experienced, she added.

Survivor Jihad Alariachi said there had been no warning from the cockpit to brace for landing before the ground loomed up through the mist.

"We braked really hard, but that's normal in a landing. Then the nose went up. And then we bounced... with the nose aloft," she said.

Witnesses on the ground described seeing the plane appear to glide through the air, having lost all propulsion, before hitting the ground and breaking into three pieces.

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