Russia to seek French aid over Armenian plane crash

Agence France Presse -- English
May 7, 2006 Sunday 1:43 PM GMT

MOSCOW, May 7 2006 -- Moscow is to ask France for help in retrieving
the black box flight recorders of an Armenian aircraft that crashed
in the Black Sea earlier this month, a Russian minister said Sunday.

"The aeronautical safety committee of the (12-nation) Commonwealth
of Independent States will approach French specialists," said Russian
Transport minister Igor Levitin.

All the passengers and crew aboard died when an Airbus A320 operated
by the Armenian airline Armavia plunged into the sea Wednesday as it
tried to land at Sochi in bad weather on a flight from the Armenian
capital Yerevan.

"We have looked at the French experience at Sharm el-Sheikh," Levitin
told reporters after a meeting with Emergency Situations Minister
Sergei Shoigu.

In January 2004 after a Flash Airlines Boeing crashed off the Egyptian
resort, a Scorpio robot sent by France recovered the two black boxes
from a depth of more 1,000 metres (3,300 feet).

"French colleagues have told us what equipment they used and French
companies have said they are ready to help us," Levitin said.

"We can suggest to France that it take part with us in the search
operation and the task of bringing to the surface aircraft parts and
bodies" which have not been recovered, he said.

The plane probably either came down when heavy rain forced a loss
of speed, or was actually struck by lightning, according an aviation
specialist. Parts have been located at a depth of 680 metres (2,200
feet).

The bodies of 32 of the dead passengers have been taken to Yerevan,
Armenian Civil Aviation confirmed, with a further seven due to be
sent on Saturday night.

Rescuers have so far only found 51 bodies and seven of these have
not yet been identified, Sergei Aristov, Russia's deputy transport
minister, said. neo-uh/sj/cc