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Charkhi Dadri collision report expected this weekend

Syed Firdaus Ashraf in New Delhi

The report on the contents of the cockpit voice recorders and the digital data flight recorders of the two aircraft involved in the world's worst mid-air disaster at Charkhi Dadri is expected this weekend.

Justice R C Lahoti, who heads the probe, told Rediff On the NeT, that both involved parties -- Kazhak Airlines and Saudi Airlines -- informed him they would send their reports after decoding the CVR and DDFR by March 15. The disaster involving the Kazakh Air Cargo, Ilyshin-II 76 and the Saudi Air Boeing-747 on November 12 claimed 325 lives.

The data from the recorders is expected to yield valuable clues to the cause of the mid-air collision. While the CVR would contain the conversations of the pilots in the cockpit, the DFDR, which is located at the aircraft's rear, records parameters like altitude, speed, and position once every five seconds.

But the final report will be submitted only after hearing out the two involved airlines, and that would not be before the May 15 deadline," Justice Lahoti said.

Initially it was decided that experts from the Boeing company would have to be summoned to decode the recorder in the Saudi plane. And the Indian Air Force, which itself has Ilyshin-II 76s, was supposed to do the decoding of the Kazakh aircraft recorders. But both airlines preferred doing the decoding abroad.

The decoding of the Kazakh Ilyushin II-76 recorders, was done by Inter-State Aviation Committee, a Moscow-based decoding agency while the Saudi Boeing-747 recorders were decoded by the Air Accident Investigation Board, at Farnborough, London. Justice Lahoti was present at the decoding of the recorders in Russia and England, along with civil aviation officials.

Claims were made that the accident could have been avoided if safety standards had been higher at the New Delhi air control. But transcripts of the tapes at the control tower showed the air controllers had made no mistake.

Director General of Civil Aviation H S Khola had claimed soon after the crash that the preliminary investigation showed pilot error was to blame. But only the recorders will show whether the Kazakh or the Saudi pilot was at fault.

The initial investigating showed that the Saudi airplane was told to fly at 14,000 feet and the Kazakh one at 15,000 feet. But, according to one calculation, the accident appears to have occurred at around 14,500 feet. But Justice Lahoti said it was too early to comment on whose fault it was and that he would have to wait for the report.

Meanwhile, Saudi Airlines has settled the claims of kin of 153 of the 230 passengers, paying US $20,000 for loss of life and 20 dollars per kg for the luggage of each passenger.

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