Armavia Flight 967
Armavia Flight 967 was a flight operated by Armavia, the largest international airline of Armenia on May 3, 2006, from Yerevan in Armenia to Sochi, a Black Sea coastal resort city in Russia which has long had an Armenian minority population. The airplane crashed during its second approach to Sochi airport, killing all 113 aboard.
The accident was the first major commercial airline crash in 2006. 
Date: May 3, 2006
Type: Crash on approach
Site: 6 km off Adler-Sochi International Airport over Black Sea
Aircraft type: Airbus A320-211 
Tail number: EK-32009
The aircraft was carrying 113 people, including six children and eight crew members. It was scheduled to depart Zvartnots International Airport (EVN) at 01:45 Armenian Daylight Time (20:45 UTC, May 2) and arrive at Adler-Sochi International Airport (AER) at 02:00 Moscow Daylight Time (22:00 UTC, May 2). The aircraft disappeared from radar screens at about 02:15 Moscow time (22:15 UTC, May 2)  and was confirmed to have crashed early on May 3, 2006 off the Black Sea coast shortly before it was to land in the airport. 
It was reported that the weather in the area was bad with rough seas, driving rain and low visibility when the aircraft approached the airport. Armavia released a statement on their website claiming that weather was to blame but also included that all maintenance on the plane was supervised by officials from a foreign firm. Investigators do not believe terrorism was involved.
Rescue and recovery efforts
Wreckage from the plane was spotted six kilometers (four miles) from the coastline. Rescuers also found baggage and life jackets among the wreckage. The first group of bodies were recovered from the sea not long after the rescue effort began. None were found to be wearing a life jacket, possibly indicating a lack of warning before the accident. Emergency Ministry spokeswoman Yulia Stadnikova said that the aircraft was lying on the seabed, 400 meters (1,312 ft) below the surface. The current weather conditions are delaying recovery efforts. Twenty-six of the passengers were Russian citizens, seventy-nine were Armenian.
The plane, an Airbus A320 with aircraft registration/tail number EK-32009 was sold to Armavia by Ansett in the late 1990s.
Thursday, 4 May, 2006
Georgian Air Controllers `Told Armenian Plane To Turn Back'
By Heghine Buniatian, Armen Dilanian in Prague and Ruzanna Khachatrian in Sochi
The crew of the Armenian airliner that crashed into the Black Sea on Wednesday were warned by Georgian ground controllers against landing in southern Russia due to stormy weather shortly before the disaster, officials in Tbilisi said on Thursday.
Officials at Georgia's state air navigation service claimed that the Armenian pilots heeded the warning but then decided to proceed to the Russian resort city of Sochi after receiving clearance from Russian air traffic controllers.
`The plane remained in Georgia's territory for about one hour and twenty minutes,' a spokeswoman for the service, Tea Godabadze, told RFE/RL from Tbilisi. `We informed the crew that the weather in Sochi is unfavorable and the crew decided to turn back. But twenty minutes later, when the plane reached [the western Georgian city of] Kutaisi, they told us, `Wait a minute, we are getting different information from [the southern Russian city] of Rostov.
`They were apparently told from Rostov that the weather is good,' she said.
`The commander of the aircrew bade us farewell at about three o'clock in the morning Yerevan time (2200 GMT) and even said, `Will talk to you in an hour, added Godabadze. `They were planning to return to Yerevan immediate after [arriving in Sochi]. We passed the plan on to the Rostov traffic controllers and it disappeared 15 minutes later.'
The Airbus A-320 belonging to Armenia's national airline, Armavia, reportedly disappeared from radar screens at as it attempted a second landing at Adler airport near Sochi. Armavia officials say traffic controllers initially told the plane to turn back because of torrential rain, but later changed their minds and gave it permission to land. They say the crew already began flying back to Yerevan when they were told that heavy rains cleared.
Armavia and Armenia's civil aviation authorities believe that the weather conditions were the most likely cause of the crash that killed all 113 passengers and crew on board the A-320. The head of the Georgian traffic control service, Giorgi Karbelashvili, appeared to agree with this theory, saying that that Russian traffic controllers should have told the passenger jet to steer clear of the Sochi area right from the beginning.
`We are not saying who is guilty,' Karbelashvili told RFE/RL by phone. `We are only saying that we have very important information: 90 percent of the flight's audio recordings which could be very helpful for identifying the causes of the accident.'
`If you listen to the audio, you will hear very unpleasant statements made by the Russian traffic controllers,' he added, refusing to elaborate.
The Georgian official also said that the Armenian authorities have already been informed about the existence the pilots' recorded radio communication with Georgian and Russian air navigation services. Speaking to reporters in Sochi, Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian confirmed the information and said an Armenian prosecutor has traveled to Tbilisi to obtain a copy of the audio.
Sarkisian was sent to the site of the crash by President Robert Kocharian on Wednesday to coordinate, together Russian Transport Minister Igor Levitin, the continuing official investigation into the worst air disaster in Armenia's history. The two officials co-chair a Russian-Armenian inter-governmental commission on economic cooperation.
Levitin said on Thursday that the investigators are already studying the audio of the Armenian pilots' radio communication with Russian traffic controllers. Citing unnamed sources close to the inquiry, Armenian state television reported late Wednesday that the Russian airport official who has personally told them to land at Adler is giving `conflicting' testimony.
Both Sarkisian and Armavia owner Mikhail Baghdasarov ruled out on Thursday the possibility that the crash was caused by a malfunction of the A-320. The 150-seat aircraft had operated for Armavia since February 2004 and had accumulated more than 28,200 flying hours, in 14,000 flights. According to Baghdasarov, the plane had undergone full-scale servicing a year ago and was inspected by Belgian aviation engineers as recently as last month.
`If the initial order [for the plane] to return to Yerevan was carried out, the crash would not have taken place,' the Armavia boss told RFE/RL.
Baghdasarov also said that the families of the people killed in the crash will each receive approximately $20,000 in compensation. `I understand, of course, that you can't make up for the loss with money,' he said.
(GI-Photolur photo: A Russian rescue worker stands at Sochi port dock next to the tail of the Armavia Airbus A320 plane.)
Russia Seeking Foreign Help To Raise 'Black Box' Recorders
Russia wants help from foreign countries in raising from the seabed the "black box" flight recorders from an Armenian aircraft that crashed into the Black Sea, Transport Minister Igor Levitin said Thursday.
Families Of Migrant Workers Stunned By Sudden Loss
By Astghik Bedevian and Anna Saghabalian
Sochi may be known as Russia's most popular seaside resort, but most of the mainly Armenian passengers of the fatal flight to the Black Sea city were hardly holidaymakers.
At least 80 of them were citizens of Armenia. Some were well-to-do individuals that used to hold senior government positions and planned to enjoy themselves at Sochi's beaches and hotels. But the vast majority of others were apparently economic migrants that work in Russia on a seasonal or permanent.
Much of the large-scale labor migration from Armenia to Russia has a seasonal character and usually takes places in the spring.
Mesrop Piliposian, a 24-year-old resident of the southern town of Armavir, was due to make a journey familiar to tens of thousands of unemployed Armenians for the first time in his life. His elder brother already worked in southern Russia and promised to find him a job there.
His family hoped that he will get married soon. All it wants now is to find his body and bring it home. Piliposian's brother and uncle, also in Sochi, began the grim task late Wednesday and have not been successful so far.
`Losing him is such a huge pain,' the young man's sobbing aunt said as she stood outside his ramshackle Armavir house together with other relatives and friends.
Hamlet Abgarian, another Armavir resident, traveled to Russia for the same reason. `He hoped to earn some money and come back,' said Khoren, a friend of the 36-year-old father of two. `He had some friends there. They invited him.'
Abgarian boarded the Armavia plane bound for Sochi with his 21-year-old neighbor, Vram. The latter had just finished his military service and could not find a job in Armavir. `Vram had one goal: to earn some money and create his own family,' said one of his relatives. `It's very hard to do that here.'
The tragic fate of these and other victims of the plane crash is unlikely to keep other people from various parts of Armenia from traveling to Russia for seasonal or permanent work. Dozens of such people, most of them residents of a village in northwestern Armenia, waited for a delayed Armavia flight to Moscow at Yerevan's Zvartnots on Thursday. Many admitted fearing for their lives after Wednesday's crash but said they have not other choice.
`We are leaving with fear in our hearts,' said one middle-aged man. `But we have to go.'
`Whether or not you are scared, you have to support your family,' argued one of his companions
Another group of men, from Armenia's second largest city of Gyumri, were traveling to Moscow en route to the remote eastern Siberian region of Yakutia. `My mother, father and wife were begging me to stay at home,' said one of them. `But how can I support them live if I stay here?'
(GI-Photolur photo: Students of an Armenian school in Sochi casting 113 flowers into the Black Sea in memory of the dead.)
Government Approves Aid To Bereaved Families
By Atom Markarian
Armenia's government allocated on Thursday 129 million drams ($290,000) in financial assistance to the families of all Armenian nationals killed in the plane crash in southern Russia.
Minister for Local Government Hovik Abrahamian said the money will fully cover the cost of the transportation of the victims' bodies to Armenia and the funeral expenses of their bereaved relatives.
The identified bodies of 11 Armenians retrieved by Russian rescuers from the Black Sea are due to flown to Yerevan early on Friday. The government released their names in a separate statement.
Abrahamian said each of the 85 families will receive 1.5 million drams ($3,400) in cash from the state in addition to $20,000 compensations promised by the Armavia airline that carried out the ill-fated flight. `Besides, some businessmen wanted the government to open a special bank account so that they can provide financial assistance to the families of the dead,' he told reporters. `We accepted the proposal.'
Abrahamian also said that the families of the more than 20 ethnic Armenian victims of the disaster that had Russian passports will get similar assistance from the Russian government.
Markarian Vows `Objective' Verdict On Armenian Plane Crash
Friday 5, May 2006 By Atom Markarian and Ruzanna Stepanian
Armenia began on Friday a two-day period of national mourning for the 113 people killed in the Armenian plane crash off the Russian Black Sea coast, with Prime Minister Andranik Markarian promising an `objective' conclusion about the still mysterious disaster.
Flags were flown at half-mast on public buildings across the country and radio and television stations mainly aired somber music in memory of the dead. Friday was also an official day of morning in Russia.
Markarian assured the public that Russian and Armenian investigators as well as specialists from the Franco-German Airbus group are doing their best to clear up all circumstances of the crash. `We all want to find out its causes,' he said. `That includes the French side which is interested in demonstrating good things about their aircraft.'
`There will be an objective evaluation, rather than a subjective evaluation by a single country,' he added, effectively dismissing speculation that the Russian authorities might cover up their traffic controllers' alleged responsibility for the disaster.
The speculation was stoked by the Georgian aviation authorities' claims that they told the crew of the Armavia plane to turn back and return to Yerevan because of bad weather shortly before it crashed. They say the Armenian pilots decided continue the one-hour flight to Sochi after receiving diametrically opposite instructions from Russian air navigation services.
Markarian thanked the Georgian authorities for providing the audio of their radio communication with the crew, saying that it will be carefully examined by the investigators. He at the same time urged reporters not to draw any conclusions for the moment. `Let's wait for the specialists' conclusions. Especially now that the plane's black boxes have been located,' he said.
Meanwhile, the first 26 bodies of the victims, recovered from the Black Sea by Russian search and rescue teams, were flown to Yerevan on a special flight from Sochi in the early hours of Friday. By early afternoon, seventeen of them were identified by and handed over to their relatives at one of the city's morgues. Some of the corpses were said to be dismembered, adding to the horror of the people who came to collect their loved ones.
Arsen Nikoghosian did not rush to take home the body of his wife, flight attendant Lusine Gevorgian, after enduring the traumatizing procedure. `I just can't see her parents and our 8-year-old daughter now,' Nikoghosian said, unable to contain tears. `I don't know how to tell her about our loss. This disaster has killed all of us.'
Also identified was Lusine Badalian, an 8-year-old girl who was said to have flown to Sochi with her parents. Their bodies have still not be recovered from the crash site.
Anahit Khachatrian, a middle-aged woman, also boarded the plane with her husband. `They had two sons living in Sochi,' her grieving cousin, Anahit Avetisian, explained as she stood outside the morgue. `So they decided to move there.'
`They said on TV that her body has also been transported to Yerevan, but I am told she is not here,' she said, expressing hope that Khachatrian will be among six other victims who were due to be flown from Sochi late in the evening.
(The pictures of deceased crew members put on display at the Armavia offices in Yerevan.)
Relatives Cast Flowers Into Sea For Crash Victims
By Denis Sinyakov in Sochi, AFP
Grieving relatives cast flowers into the Black Sea on Friday at the spot where an Armenian jet plunged into the waters, killing all 113 on board.
To the sound of mournful music and the boom of a fog horn, they scattered carnations and roses over the waters six kilometers (four miles) offshore from the Russian resort of Sochi, where the Armenian Airbus A320 crashed on Wednesday. A woman holding a photograph of two young newly-weds who died in the crash fainted on the deck of the boat that took them to the site. Several others also passed out.
Transport Minister Igor Levitin, who was in Sochi, said it was essential to find the corpses of the many victims still lost in the sea -- more than half of the people on the plane. Only 50 bodies have been recovered so far, according to the emergency situations ministry. "It's very important for us to raise the bodies. That's our priority now," Levitin said.
A first plane carrying 26 bodies arrived at the airport in the Armenian capital, Yerevan, on Friday after an initial delay, apparently due to a lack of coffins. "The victims' bodies are unrecognizable, horribly disfigured. A mother wouldn't know her own son," said one young man who had returned from Sochi after failing to find his brother-in-law, his eyes red from crying and fatigue.
Flags flew at half mast across Armenia, radio and television channels played sad music and memorial services were held at churches across the country. Russian officials and\ members of the public also laid flowers at the Armenian embassy in Moscow for the victims of the accident. The crash has shocked the two countries, which have long had close ties.
Meanwhile dozens of vessels as well as helicopters continued efforts to recover from the sea the victims' corpses and the black box flight recorders that might help establish why the plane crashed. Bad weather is thought to be the cause of the crash, according to investigators. The latter said they had picked up signals from what seemed to be the flight recorders at a location 680 meters (2,200 feet) below the surface, where a large section of the plane's wrecked fuselage lay.
Russia, whose investigators are being helped by experts from France, is seeking assistance from other foreign countries to raise the black boxes since its Black Sea fleet is not fully equipped for the task, Levitin said. A bathyscaphe submersible vehicle would be sent down to the site to ascertain whether the signals that have been picked up are really coming from a section of the plane, he added.
Relatives face the grim task of identifying their dead loved ones from photographs pinned on a hotel wall in Sochi, many of the bodies battered and bloated from submersion in the water.
On board the plane were 85 Armenian citizens, 26 Russians, one Georgian and one Ukrainian, according to a list published at Yerevan airport. Six children were thought to be among the dead. The plane disappeared from radar screens at 2:15 am on Wednesday (2215 GMT Tuesday) as it attempted a second landing at Adler airport near Sochi, Armenian and Russian officials said. The pilot had begun returning to Yerevan after aborting a first landing attempt, but wheeled round again after being informed that heavy rains had cleared.
The landing strip at Adler is awkwardly located between the sea and the Caucasus mountains and difficult to negotiate at the best of times, according to the authorities.
The Kommersant newspaper said on Friday that the plane's computer navigation systems would have been switched off for landing, due to the absence of supporting equipment on the ground for guiding in the plane. With the clouds no higher than 100 meters above the landing strip, the pilot would have had little time to manually adjust the plane's approach when it emerged from the cloud cover, the paper said.
(Photolur photo: Makeshift coffins of plane crush victims stacked outside a Yerevan morgue.)
GETTING BLACK BOXES WILL BE UNPRECEDENTED IF IT HAPPENS
Lragir.am 5 May 06
In the place of the crash of A320 of Armavia Airlines the Kalmar Complex devised by Russian specialists for the Army Navy of Russia.
The complex is designed to carry out search and research at a depth of 600 meters. Nevertheless, the minister of transport of Russia, the head of the operational headquarters Igor Levitin stated May 5 he could not assess the possibility of getting the black boxes from water. Levitin said statistics has not seen a fact when the black box was lifted from a depth of 680 meters. The black boxes of Armenian plane that crashed in the Black Sea on May 2 and 3 are at such a depth. So far the experts have only managed to receive the radio signal of the black boxes. Levitin said this is an unprecedented attempt to get the black boxes from such a depth. The first black box was retrieved on 05/22/2006 and the second was found on 05/24/2006. Both boxes were taken to Russia and it was estimated it would take 2 weeks for the information to be decoded.
Condolences were sent by:
- President of the Belgian Senate Ann-Mary Liezen to RA NA Speaker Arthur Baghdasaryan
- President of the Georgian Parliament Nino Burdjanadze to RA NA Speaker Arthur Baghdasaryan
- President of the Ukrainian Supreme Rada Vladimir Litvin to RA NA Speaker Arthur Baghdasaryan
- President of the Greek Parliament Anna Benaki to RA NA Speaker Arthur Baghdasaryan
- President of the Irani Islamic Republic Parliament Gholamali Haddad-Adel to RA NA Speaker Arthur Baghdasaryan
- Deputy Speaker of the RF State Duma Arthur Chilingarov to RA NA Speaker Arthur Baghdasaryan
- The Emir (of Qatar) H H Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani to Armenian President Robert Kocharian
- Heir Apparent (to the Emir of Qatar) H H Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani to Armenian President Robert Kocharian
- NKR President Arkady Ghukassian expressed condolences
- NKR Speaker Ashot Ghulian
- NKR Prime Minister Anoushavan Danielian
- French President Jacques Chirac to Armenian President Robert Kocharian
- French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin to Armenian Prime Minister Andranik Margarian
- Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul sent a message to his Armenian counterpart Vartan Oskanian
- German President Horst Koehler to Armenian leader Robert Kocharian
- German Federal Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier to Armenian FM Vartan Oskanian
- German Chancellor Angela Merkel to President Robert Kocharian
- U.S. Ambassador to Armenia John Evans
- US President George W. Bush
- Ukrainian President Victor Yushchenko to Pres. Kocharian and Russian President Vladimir Putin
Book of condolences opened in Paris
Since early in the morning of May 5 people have been visiting the Embassy of Armenia in France where a book of condolences has been opened in connection with the crash of the Armenian airplane in Sochi.
Numerous Ambassadors, state and political officers, deputies, Senators, and high officials of international organizations and the Foreign Ministry of France have expressed their condolences in the Embassy.
French President Jacques Chirac too ahs sent a condoling telegram to the RA President which says, "Mr. President, my dear friend, I learned about the crash of the Armenian airplane in Sochi which took the lives of so many people with the deepest sorrow. In this hour of trial in connection with this tragic event on behalf of the French nation I express my sincere condolences to you, as well as to the families of the victims."
French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin, President of the Senate Christian Poncelet and Foreign Minister Philip Douste-Blazy have sent condoling messages too.
Book of condolences opened in Istanbul
/PanARMENIAN.Net/ Condolence Book was opened in the BSECO (Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organization) Armenian permanent representation in Istanbul. All who wish can make condoling notes over the crash of Armavia-owned A-320 jet, Marmara Istanbul based newspaper reported with a reference to Armenia's permanent representative in the BSECO Karen Mirzoyan.
Book of condolences opened in Moscow
/PanARMENIAN.Net/ Representatives of state and public organizations come to the Armenian Embassy in Moscow to make notes in the condolence book over the loss of 113 people in the A-320 crash, Embassy's Spokesman Armen Ghevondyan said. "Many people have come since morning. These are representatives of state and public organizations, members of diplomatic missions. Some 200 notes have been made," Ghevondyan said. He reminded that the condolence book will be opened 10 a.m.-15 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. In his words, people lay flowers to the Embassy fence and to the Cross-Stone (khachkar) near the church situated at the Armenian cemetery in Moscow," Ghenondyan said, reported Interfax.
Monument to victims
/PanARMENIAN.Net/ Friday Russian Minister of Transport Igor Levitin told journalists that a monument to the A-320 crash victims will be inaugurated in Sochi. "The decision was taken by the request of the relatives of the killed. The Mayor promised to decide the site within shortest terms. The Governor of the Krasnodar region supported the initiative," Levitin said. "This will be the place where the relatives of the killed can come to revere their memory," he added. __________ ITAR-TASS News Agency August 12, 2006 Saturday 03:33 PM EST
Monument to plane crash victims erected in Armenia
A monument to the victims of Armavia's Airbus-320 plane crash in the Black Sea was erected in Yerevan on Saturday.
This is a traditional Armenian khachkar (stone stele with an inlaid cross) and a water spring at the base. A memorial park will be build around the monument.
All 105 passengers and eight crewmembers died in the May 3 crash.
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Donations to victims
Upon request of foreign organizations and individuals, special bank accounts are opened to support the families of the perished aboard the flight Yerevan-Flight.
- Inecobank (AMD) - 20 500 22 17 060 1003
- Armsavingsbank (ruble) - 160 48 200 54 53
- Armeconombank (USD) - 16 300 81 23 743
- Armeconombank (euro) - 16 300 81 23 750
Վթարի ենթարկված A 320 ինքնաթիռի ուղեւորների ցուցակը`
10. Ռուբեն Գեւորգյան
20. Լավրենտի Սահակյան
30. Սիլվա Նալբանդյան
40. Մարիա Խաչատրյան
50. Սպարտակ Հարությունյան
70. Ալբերտ Կոնդակչյան
80. Մարիամ Ղազարյան
90. Մանյակ Մկրտումյան
Վթարված ինքնաթիռի հրամանատարական եւ տեխնիկական անձնակազմը`
1. Հրամանատար` Գրիշա Գրիգորյան
2. Երկրորդ օդաչու` Արման Դավթյան
3. Նիկոլայ Խաչատրյան
4. Մարինա Հասրաթյան
5. Լուսինե Գրիգորյան
6. Անաիդա Աբելյան
7. Ռոմա Շորոմետեւ
8. Արմեն Հարությունյան
- Aviation Safety Network profile on the crash
- CNN Report on May 2 at night (EDT)
- BBC – Hunt for Armenia air crash bodies
- AirDisaster.com - Armenian A320 crashes into Black Sea
- Bloomberg.com - Armenian Plane Crashes in Russian Black Sea