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Tuesday, 5 September, 2000, 22:15 GMT 23:15 UK
Gulf Air improves offer
Gulf Air debris off the coast of Bahrain
Investigators say it is too early to blame pilot error
Gulf Air has announced it will provide increased compensation to relatives of the 143 people killed when one of its planes crashed off Bahrain last month.

The airline said it would pay $15,000 for each child on the plane in addition to the $25,000 it has already promised for each adult victim.

The offer comes as investigators looking into the causes of the crash off confirm that the pilot failed to slow down as he tried to land - despite cockpit system warnings.

But they said it was still too early to say whether pilot error caused the crash.

Multiple victims

Announcing the extra compensation, Gulf Air President Sheikh Ahmed bin Saif al-Nahayan said: "We are making this payment to help relieve any financial burden on the families as a result of the accident."

Ihsan Shakeeb's grave
Mourning the pilot, Captain Ihsan Shakeeb
"We have learned how many families had several members on board.... The expense for them obviously multiplies," he said.

Independently of the airline's compensation, the Bahraini Government said that it would help the families of the 34 Bahraini victims of the crash.

A government committee said it had decided to make an immediate cash grant of 10,000 Bahraini dinar ($26,500) per adult and 7,000 dinar ($18,600) per child, and to cancel the victims' debts to ministries and state-owned funds.

Investigation

News of the pilot's excessive speed came from the chief investigator into the disaster, Frank Hilldrup, a US National Transportation Safety Board expert.

He said the findings were based on information from the plane's flight data and cockpit voice recorders.

There had been intense media speculation that excessive speed contributed to the crash.

The investigators suggest that the crew was having trouble controlling the plane, which appeared to have accelerated rather than reduced speed after the warning sounded in the cockpit.

Landing aborted

Mr Hilldrup said on Monday night that the pilot was told by Bahrain air traffic control to "climb 2,500 feet" after he called off his initial landing approach and requested a go-ahead.

Citing information from one of the black box recorders, he said that after the second aborted attempt to land, "the first officer stated 'over speed limit'".

The flight data recorder indicates that the captain's side stick then moved forward, a movement which increased the plane's speed.

The chief pilot of Gulf Air's Airbus A320 fleet, Captain Hamid Ali, has previously rejected reports that pilot error was behind the crash.

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See also:

25 Aug 00 | Middle East
'No pilot error' in Gulf crash
25 Aug 00 | Middle East
Prayers for Gulf crash victims
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