Plane crash over Lake Constance: causes, investigation, consequences
Fifteen years have passed since the moment when the tragedy occurred in the sky over Germany. The 2002 plane crash claimed the lives of 71 single people, most of whom were children.
The crash occurred in 2002 on the night from July 1 to July 2 in the region of Lake Constance in the sky over Germany. The clash of two planes claimed the lives of 19 adults and 52 children. Almost all the victims are passengers of the Russian Tu-154m airliner, on which children flew to Spain for holidays. The plane belonged to the company "Bashkir Airlines", it served a charter flight from Moscow to Spain (Barcelona).
The second aircraft involved in the collision, the Boeing-757 international airline company HDL, was traveling from Italy (Bergamo) to Belgium (Brussels). On board the Tu-154M were 57 passengers, of which only five were adults, and 52 were children, as well as 12 crew members.
Among the victims of the 2002 plane crash over Lake Constance were many children. This is due to the fact that they flew to rest in Spain. Talented students were rewarded with a trip for high achievements in their studies. The UNESCO Committee has provided vouchers for Bashkir children.
Already after the collision over Lake Constance, it was found out that the event was preceded by a whole series of fatal accidents, which could have been ignored, without disaster. Bashkir children were not supposed to fly at all that night. By chance, the accompanying adults brought them to the wrong airport. Instead of Domodedovo, from where their plane flew to Barcelona, they ended up at Sheremetyevo. Naturally, they missed their flight.
Many schoolchildren who went on vacation were children of high-ranking officials. For example, on board was the fifteen-year-old daughter of the head of the administration under the president of Bashkortostan, Leysan Gimaeva.
If there were children from ordinary families in the group, then surely they would just go home, being late for the plane. Schoolchildren, of course, would be disappointed, but they would still be alive.
However, events developed in a completely different scenario. Influential parents made the decision to send a plane to Bashkir Airlines to Moscow, which could fly children to Spain by a charter flight. The head of the crew of the airliner was Alexander Gross, who previously flew to Barcelona and knew the route very well.
After boarding the schoolchildren on a plane, it turned out that there were still a few empty seats available. Lightning-fast, it was decided to sell these seven tickets. So gradually the number of future victims increased.
Four tickets were purchased by the Shislovskys from Belarus, who were late for their flight, and therefore were forced to fly to others. Three more tickets went to Svetlana Kaloeva, a resident of North Ossetia, with two children, who flew to her husband Vitaly, who worked under a contract in Spain. After the collision over Lake Constance, the names of random passengers were not immediately clarified.
How it was ...
On the fateful night before the plane crash over Lake Constance, both of the liners that subsequently collided were in the sky above Germany itself, but for some reason, the direction of their movement was transferred to the Swiss company Skynaid,located in Zurich. In this flight center, as a rule, only three people worked at night: an assistant and two dispatchers. However, it was on this terrible night that only one person was on duty. It was Peter Nielsen, who was forced to immediately track two terminals.
When the dispatcher noticed something was wrong, the liners were already on the same line at a distance of 36,000 feet, which meant that before the collision there were only seconds left. The reasons for which the duty officer discovered the problem so late, is unknown, but a plane crash over Lake Constance was almost inevitable. However, in this situation one could try to do something to save the situation. But, unfortunately, Peter Nelson did everything completely wrong. Either he was not ready for such emergency situations, or simply confused ... But his erroneous commands led to the death of many people.
Invalid dispatcher commands
When Peter Nelson realized that the courses of the liners overlap, and they inexorably approach each other, he tried to correct the situation. And so he gave the command to the Russian aircraft to go down. It is worth noting that at this moment the crew already noticed the approach of the other side on the left side. The pilots were ready to perform a maneuver in order to safely disperse.
However, after the command of the ground dispatcher on board the Russian aircraft, the automatic TCAS system worked, which warns of the danger of rendezvous. So, she informed about the need to climb.
At the same time, an identical system worked on Boeing, which offered pilots to gain altitude. Perhaps the catastrophe could have been avoided if these commands were carried out on both planes. The second pilot of the Russian airliner immediately noticed the discrepancy between the teams of the dispatcher and TCAS, which he immediately informed the rest of the crew. But I received the answer that ground commands will be executed. Moreover, the instruction to decline was received again.
Whose mistake caused the tragedy?
It is difficult to blame the pilots in the plane crash over Lake Constance, because they followed the commands from the ground, as instructed by the instructions. Later, the investigation will establish the cause of the disaster - the untimely command of dispatcher Peter Nielsen. He provided erroneous information to the Russian pilots that the aircraft was to the right of them. Decoding black boxes showed that the team was simply misled.The pilots, relying on the dispatcher, considered that to their right is another aircraft that the TCAS system did not detect, it’s no secret that ground installations provide more accurate data, and on-board instruments for some reason may fail.
Considering that the pilots have only a fraction of a second to make important decisions, and confusion in such situations is equivalent to death, the team complied with the instructions of the ground duty officer. It remains a mystery why none of the pilots told Peter Nielsen that his team contradicted the reports of the automatic security system. Perhaps it just did not have enough time.
After the command of the controller of the crash over Lake Constance was not to be avoided. Both liners were going to decline. The Russian board at the same time carried out the command of Peter Nielsen, and the Boeing worked according to the instructions of the TCAS system. Both teams reported their actions to the ground dispatcher, but Peter Nielsen did not hear one of the teams, since both of them were simultaneously communicating at different frequencies. And if at this time in the control room there were several attendants, as it should be, the information would be heard on time.
In the final seconds before the plane crash over Lake Constance, the pilots of the two aircraft, as they could, tried to escape from the collision, rejecting the controls. However, their attempts were in vain. The collision of the liners occurred almost at right angles. The HDL cargo plane crashed into the Russian, due to which the Tu-154M split in half at a height of ten kilometers. The wreckage of the liner during the fall fell into four parts, spreading around the town of Iberlingen. And the remains of the "Boeing" were found seven kilometers from the Russian liner.
Air Crash Investigation
The tragedy over Lake Constance was the cause of long investigations. Since the catastrophe occurred over Germany, the German Federal Office was involved in the investigation. The first conclusions were given by the commission only two years later.
The report presented the following reasons for the plane crash over Lake Constance with the participation of the Tu-154 and Boeing:
- The air traffic controller was unable to properly ensure the separation of the aircraft.
- The instruction for the decline was given too late.
Subsequently, all charges were dropped from the pilots.
During the investigation, a number of circumstances were clarified. As it turned out, telephone equipment and automatic notification of the approach of the control center liners were turned off for unknown reasons. The backup phone lines also did not work. A more responsible dispatcher from the city of Karlsruhe in Germany noticed a rapprochement of the aircraft and repeatedly tried to reach the point where Nielsen was on duty, but all attempts were unsuccessful.
Immediately after the disaster, Peter Nilsen was suspended from work until the causes and circumstances of the tragedy were ascertained. As for the Skygide Company, the investigating authorities organized a criminal investigation against it.
The outcome of the disaster
Immediately after the crash, Skyguide Company blamed the pilots of the Russian airliner for the events. According to them, the crew incorrectly executed the commands, because they did not understand the instructions of the controller in English. Only in 2004, the Federal Office of Germany published the official conclusion of the investigation. According to the conclusion, a dispatcher from SkyGuide is responsible for the collision. Only after the publication of the results of the investigation, the firm admitted its guilt.Only two years later, the director of the company bothered to apologize to the families of those who died on that terrible night. And on May 19, 2004, Joseph Deiss (President of Sweden) sent Vladimir Putin an official document apologizing for what happened.
And only in December 2006, Alain Rossier resigned from the post of director of the company Skyguide.
And in September 2007, the court of the Swiss town of Bulach convicted four employees of Skyguide, guilty of negligent attitude towards his duties, which led to the tragedy. In total, eight people who worked for a Swiss company appeared before the court. The defendants refused to admit their guilt, shifting all responsibility to Peter Nielsen, who was already dead at that time. And yet, four managers were convicted by the court of manslaughter.
All of them were identified different punishments. Three employees were given only conditional sentences, and one only a fine.
Consequences of the 2002 disaster
After the fall of the aircraft a series of troubles did not end. Heartbroken relatives could not withstand the tests that had fallen on them, some of the families fell apart after the tragedy.A lot of lives claimed the tragedy. The list of those killed in the crash over Lake Constance initially consisted of the names of 52 children and 19 adults. However, on February 24, 2004, another surname was added to the lists - Nielsen.
The same dispatcher, through whose fault the cancer error occurred, was killed by Vitaly Kaloev, whose children and wife accidentally became passengers of the ill-fated voyage. The court considered the case for a year. And in October 2005, Kaloev pleaded guilty, sentencing him to eight years in prison. However, given the serious mental state of the man, as well as all the circumstances of the case, the period was subsequently reduced to five years. Three years later, Kaloyev was released for good behavior, after which he returned to North Ossetia.
Memorial to the victims
At the site of the tragedy in 2004, a memorial to those who died in a plane crash over Lake Constance was erected - a torn string of pearls symbolizes scattered plane fragments. The idea for the creation of such a monument was the pearl necklace of the girl Diana (the daughter of the very Kaloev), found at the site of the tragedy.
Almost all the victims of the disaster were buried at the Southern Cemetery in Ufa.Their graves were arranged in accordance with the way people sat on the plane.
Another memorial recalls that tragedy. In 2006, in Zurich, next to the building of the Skyguide company, a monument of stone and glass was installed in the form of a spiral, along which 72 candles are located, symbolizing 71 victims of the disaster and one dispatcher.
Film about the disaster
The terrible tragedy and its further consequences, as well as the act of Vitaly Kaloev, formed the basis of the film “Consequences”, shot in the USA. Of course, much of it was changed and the action was transferred to America, but it was the 2002 plane crash that served as the basis for the shooting. The main character of the film was played by Arnold Schwarzenegger. His name is Roman Melnik, he has been living and working in the USA for a long time. And now his pregnant wife and daughter are finally flying to him. That is why a monument to the three will be erected on the grave ... As in the real story, Miller himself finds the beads of his daughter and her body. And also goes crazy in search of those responsible for the tragedy. The company, whose dispatcher was the cause of the disaster, offers him compensation, but he does not understand why the culprit of the accident is still at large. Miller goes to the dispatcher at home with a knife and everything happens according to the same scenario as in real life.Only a few details are changed by the director, who managed to convey the incredible experiences of the main character on the screen.