Moscow hints air crash in Germany was caused by controllers' mistake

The "human factor" was responsible for an air disaster in German skies, said Alexander Neradko, Russia's First Deputy Transport Minister and head of the State Civil Aviation Service. Neradko gave a clear signal that the accident could have occurred through a ground services mistake. According to him, "it is obvious that the human factor is behind many things and more often than not may be related to the ground".

The Ministry spokesman flatly denied an allegation that the cause of the catastrophe was an error made by the Russian crew.

In Neradko's opinion, the mistake could have been made by air traffic controllers. Neradko explained that according to preliminary data the flight was controlled over the disaster location by Zurich, although the site is in Germany, not far from the border.

Neradko pointed out that airplane routes crossed practically at right angles.

According to the first deputy minister, consideration is given to all leads, but that of a terrorist act is ruled out as "incredible".

The Tu-154 airliner was a new one, manufactured in 1995, and on July 11 it would have marked its 7th birth anniversary. So the liner did not need any overhaul, Neradko noted.

Neradko also said that the causes of the disaster are at present being investigated by the German Federal Bureau for Air Accidents. At the same time Russia has set up a team of experts under the direction of Deputy Transport Minister Pavel Rozhkov. Representatives from Bashkiria included in the group left Ufa for Moscow at 14.00 Moscow time.

As Neradko said, at 20.00 the group will arrive at the German airport of Friedrichshafen.

Relatives of the victims can "later" visit the place of the disaster, but now specialists have to work there, Neradko said.

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