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'Altitude! Altitude!' Purported Black-Box Transcript Reveals Grim Moments Before Russian Crash

The flight recorder (black box) of the ill-fated Saratov Airlines Antonov An-148 flight was recovered from the crash site near Moscow.
The flight recorder (black box) of the ill-fated Saratov Airlines Antonov An-148 flight was recovered from the crash site near Moscow.

The cockpit voice recorder from a Russian airliner that crashed outside Moscow in February captured the desperate last words of the pilots as they tried to reverse the aircraft's downward course shortly after takeoff, a news report says.

RBC news agency reported on March 6 that it had obtained a transcript of the conversation between the commander and co-pilot seconds before the February 11 crash, which killed all 71 passengers and crew aboard the Antonov An-148.

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"Altitude! Altitude! Altitude!" the commander shouts after a terse exchange with the co-pilot, apparently over the aircraft's speed and direction.

The plane's automatic system then warns the pilots: "Terrain ahead! Terrain ahead! PULL UP! Terrain ahead!"

The commander shouts, "Up!"

Seconds later he says, "That's all," followed by a curse.

According to RBC, the Federal Air Transport Agency (Rosaviatsia) and a source at the Moscow-based Interstate Aviation Committee (MAK) confirmed the authenticity of the transcript but declined to comment.

Details about air-crash investigations are leaked to the media in Russia with some frequency.

MAK said earlier that preliminary tests and analyses indicated that the speed gauges could have been covered with ice and shown inaccurate data.

It suggested that heating elements for the gauges were not switched on before the An-148 took off from Moscow's Domodedovo airport on a flight to the Urals city of Orsk.

According to MAK, the flight recorders found at the crash site showed that an emergency situation occurred aboard Saratov Airlines plane 2 1/2 minutes after it took off.

The flight recorders indicated that the two gauges displayed different speeds before the crash, one rising rapidly while the other showed a speed of zero.

With the difference widening, it said, the crew apparently switched off autopilot and returned to manually flying the plane, which hit the ground six minutes after takeoff.

With reporting by RBC
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