plane’s ‘hard landing caused fire

The statement released by the General Authority of Civil
Aviation (GACA) on Saturday said that a “heavy hit on the surface of the
runway caused the crash that led to a fire and billowing smoke all around”
immediately after landing.
The plane’s black box recorder has been recovered and is
being analyzed, according to GACA spokesman Khaled Al-Khaibari.
The report said the plane’s hard landing occurred at
11:38 a.m. at Riyadh’s King Khaled International Airport as it arrived from
Frankfurt on the first stop of a run that would have continued to Sharjah and
Hong Kong.
According to airline sources, there were no hints of a
malfunction, or even of on-board fire prior to landing. The results of GACA’s
investigation also contradict earlier reports attributed to Saudi air traffic
control officials who said that the crew had declared an emergency just before
touchdown. In fact, an alert was declared and all necessary support mobilized
only after the plane struck the runway and caught fire, according to the
initial investigations.
“The international investigating officers in
cooperation with Saudi officials are still gathering information from the crash
site,” said the GACA statement.
Investigators have learned that the plane’s landing gear
remained intact after the crash, but the front gear was destroyed, causing the
plane’s nose to impact the ground. Damage to the rear fuselage and the type of
injuries sustained by the pilots are seen as indicators of a violent impact.
“Metal scratching along the runway could be identified
as an ignition source (to the ensuing fire),” said an airline official on
the condition of anonymity.
The fire destroyed much of the upper-half of the plane
and the estimated 80 tons of cargo, the official added.
The official said investigators are still trying to
figure out if the hard landing was the result of some kind of emergency that
caused the pilots to attempt to land as quickly as possible or whether the
accident occurred during a normal landing procedure gone awry. The pilots’
account of what transpired before the accident have yet to be revealed

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