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Papers ask: who is to blame for fatal air crash?

The papers are focusing on the issue of who is to blame for the mid-air collision swissinfo.ch

The international and Swiss press have focused their attention on who - or what - is to blame for Monday night's mid-air collision.

This content was published on July 3, 2002 - 08:40

The "Financial Times" said the investigation into the causes of the crash - Europe's first mid-air collision in nearly 26 years - was likely to focus "as much on the actions of the Swiss air traffic controller during the last few minutes before impact as on the failure of the Russian jet to react to instructions from the ground".

The German-language paper, "Der Bund", said there should be "no quick accusations" and that the investigations should be allowed to run their course.

"But," the paper added in its front-page editorial, "it's impossible to dismiss the feeling that grave mistakes were made by Skyguide [the Swiss air traffic control bureau]."

Question of responsibility

Skyguide said Zurich-based controllers had issued "several instructions" to the crew of the Russian jet to reduce altitude before the plane finally went into a dive and collided with a Boeing 757 cargo plane which had also begun an emergency descent.

"The [Russian] plane had been in the care of Skyguide for several minutes," the paper continued, "and there is no obvious reason why so much time elapsed before the warning was given."

In its editorial, the "Berner Zeitung" said investigators needed to answer a series of questions when piecing together what happened in the minutes which led up to the crash: "Why did the air traffic controller warn the Russian plane so late? Why did he not also get in contact with the pilots of the cargo jet? And above all: why did the man sitting in the Zurich control tower not see this disaster coming?"

"What the accident proves," the paper added, "is how delicate aviation is."

The Russian press accused Swiss air traffic controllers of failing to react in time to avert the collision.

The daily "Vremia Novosteï" said the Swiss authorities had "sent a Russian plane with children on board to ram into a Boeing cargo plane", while the "Nezavissimaïa" claimed the crash was "directly linked to the absence of air traffic controllers at their place of work."

Safety in the air

The French-language "Tribune de Genève" focused on the role of air traffic controllers who are responsible for maintaining safety in the air.

"There is a severe lack of controllers monitoring the sky, and many complain of stress and fatigue," the paper said.

"This is a problem which - with the explosion in air traffic - could soon lead to chaos in the air."

The London-based "Guardian" reported that German politicians had previously warned of a "disaster waiting to happen".

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