Kazakhstan Grounds Bek Air Planes After Crash Kills at Least 12

By Naubet Bisenov, Nariman Gizitdinov and Anurag Kotoky | December 27, 2019

At least a dozen people died after a plane crashed shortly after takeoff early Friday in southeastern Kazakhstan, leading local authorities to ground the rest of budget carrier Bek Air’s fleet.

The twin-turbofan Fokker 100 aircraft was carrying 98 people including five crew members, Kazakh Deputy Prime Minister Roman Sklyar said at a news conference in the former capital Almaty. Another 49 were injured, with 18 in serious condition.

Footage posted by a woman who said she survived the Bek Air crash showed a pre-dawn scene of confusion and panic amid wreckage in the snow.

The plane’s tail touched the ground twice during takeoff before gaining altitude and this may have caused the crash, Sklyar said. Among the passengers were two Ukrainian citizens, one Kyrgyz and one Chinese. The captain died in the crash.

Bek Air Flight Z92100 took off from Almaty at 7:05 a.m. en route to the capital, Nur-Sultan, and at 7:22 a.m. lost altitude and crashed into a wall and then a two-story building in the area of Almerek village, according to a post on Almaty airport’s Facebook page.

The 23-year-old jet received a certificate of airworthiness in May, according to a statement from the local civil aviation authority. The cause of the crash wasn’t given. The weather was relatively clear amid below-zero temperatures, according to Flightradar24.

Prime Minister Askar Mamin will lead a commission investigating the crash and publish preliminary findings Jan. 10, according to a government statement.

In another post on Facebook, the airport published a list of 60 survivors it said had received medical aid.

Bek Air didn’t immediately respond to calls for comment. President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev issued a statement offering condolences.

Bek Air was founded in 2011 as a full-service domestic carrier operating from a hub at Uralsk Airport in northwestern Kazakhstan, according to CAPA Centre for Aviation. The company’s website shows a fleet of Fokker 100 planes. The average age of the aircraft is about 26 years, according to plane tracking website planespotters.net.

IATA Safety

Bek Air doesn’t have safety certification issued by the Geneva-based International Air Transport Association, according to a spokeswoman for the civil aviation authority. The so-called IATA Operational Safety Audit includes training, maintenance and flight planning and is mandatory for all of the organization’s members, which comprise 82% of global traffic.

In 2015 Bek Air sued the Kazakh aviation committee over a planned rule requiring airlines flying domestic routes to have the certificate known as IOSA, according to the airline’s website.

The committee and three other Kazakh airlines agreed in January 2016 that the audit standards should become a legal requirement, the Kazakh business chamber said in a statement on its own website. The government decided not to make it mandatory for domestic flights.

Rival budget airline Qazaq Air renewed its IATA certificate in April. Nine out of Bek Air’s 10 Fokker 100s have certificates of airworthiness, the civil aviation spokeswoman said. These aren’t the same as the IATA audit.

Fokker NV along with Fokker Aircraft BV, the aircraft production unit, filed for bankruptcy in March 1996 after its main shareholders stopped supporting the unprofitable company. It was also facing competition from Airbus SE and Boeing Co.

–With assistance from Kyunghee Park, Niluksi Koswanage and Torrey Clark.

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