Children 'flew' doomed Airbus

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MOSCOW - A Russian government commission investigating the crash of an Aeroflot Airbus 310 that killed 75 people said yesterday that one of the cockpit crew was showing his children how to fly the plane minutes before it went down.

The statement said the flight recorders showed the scheduled flight from Moscow to Hong Kong on 23 March was proceeding without any problems until it had passed over the Siberian city of Novokuznetsk. It then said: 'It was established that present in the cockpit were the son and a daughter of a crew member who, in violation of flight rules, was demonstrating and explaining to them the principles of piloting a plane.

'Four minutes after passing Novokuznetsk the plane diverted to the right more than it should, which resulted in a sharp loss of altitude and collision with the ground.' The flight recorders were examined in France before being shipped back to Russia. The statement was reporting preliminary findings.

The twin-engined plane was leased by Aeroflot 14 months ago. It was the second aviation disaster in Siberia this year. More than 120 people were killed on 3 January when a Tupolev Tu-154 belonging to a domestic airline plunged into farmland near Irkutsk.

Aeroflot officials said the flight recorders would be passed to a military research institute capable of combining the sound from the recorders with a visual picture of the flight on a screen.

The official Itar-Tass news agency quoted unnamed 'competent experts' as saying 'the theory of incompetent interference in the piloting of the Airbus 310 is a far from adequate explanation of the possible reason for the tragedy in Siberia'.