Moscow is to ask France for specialist help in retrieving the black box flight recorders of an Armenian aircraft that crashed in the Black Sea last week, 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.
One of the Russian salvage team Sunday revised the estimate of the depth at which the recorders were lying to 450 meters (1,480 feet) from the previous estimate of 680 meters (2,230 feet). All 113 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 need more detailed information on where the remains of the plane are. That's why we need the French equipment," Levitin told reporters after a meeting with Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu. "We have looked at the French experience at Sharm el-Sheikh," Levitin said.
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 meters
The black box flight recorders are not as far beneath the surface as previously thought, one of the rescue team said Sunday. "We can say with certainty that the objects in question are lying at a considerably shallower depth that the one estimated yesterday," Alexander Delyanov of the company operating the deep-sea research vehicle Kalmar.
"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 Armenian plane probably either came down when heavy rain forced a loss of speed, or was actually struck by lightning, according to an aviation specialist. Parts have been located at a depth of 680 meters (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. Investigators from the French government's civil aviation department were already at the scene Sunday, a standard procedure since the crash involved a French-built plane. They were not using specialist equipment of the kind employed at Sharm el-Sheikh to probe for black boxes.
Russian authorities have been reluctant in the past to accept foreign technical aid in emergencies. When the Kursk nuclear submarine sank in the Barents sea in 2000 they waited a week before accepting Norwegian and British assistance. None of the 118 submarine crew was saved.