Flydubai Flight 981

Flydubai Flight 981
The aircraft involved in the crash as seen in 2011 while departing from Dubai International Airport
The aircraft involved in the crash as seen in 2011 while departing from Dubai International Airport

Accident summary
Date 19 March 2016
Type : under investigation
Location : Rostov on Don Airport,
Rostov on Don,
Rostov Oblast, Russia
Passengers : 55
Crew : 7
Fatalities : 62 (all)
Survivors : 0
Aircraft involved : Boeing 737-800
Operator : Flydubai
Aircraft registration : A6-FDN
Flight origin : Dubai International Airport
Destination : Rostov on Don

Flydubai Flight 981 (FZ981/FDB981) was a scheduled international passenger flight from Dubai International Airport, the United Arab Emirates, to Rostov on Don, Russia. The aircraft that flew this route on 19 March 2016, a Boeing 737-800 crashed after two unsuccessful landing attempts at Rostov on Don Airport in adverse weather conditions. At time time of the crash the aircraft has just started climbing to 4000 feet after its second aborted landing attempt when for yet unknown reasons rapidly descended and crashed on the runway. All 62 passengers and crew lost their lives.

This was the first fatal incident in the eight year history of Flydubai.


The aircraft involved in the crash was a relatively new Boeing 737-8KN which was delivered as new to Flydubai on the 24 January 2011. The aircraft had the serial number MSN 40241, it performed its maiden flight on 21 December 2010 and upon delivery to Flydubai it was registered as A6-FDN. The two CFM56 engines were manufactured by CFM International. The last C-check of the aircraft was performed on 21 January 2016.


According to schedule Flydubai Flight 981 should have departed Dubai International Airport at 21:45 local time (UTC+4) on 18 March 2016 and it was due to arrive at Rostov on Don Airport at 01:20 local time (UTC+3) on 19 March 2016. The return flight was scheduled to depart Rostov on Don Airport at 02:20 local time. However the aircraft departed Dubai with a 45 minute delay at 22:30 local time and after a four hour flight at 01:39 local time the aircraft attempted the first landing at Rostov on Don Airport. Due to adverse weather, at 01:42, at 526 m (1725 m), 6.7 kilometers (4.2 mi) short of the runway the crew decided to abort the landing and perform a go around. Two other flights landed successfully just fifteen minutes before this attempt: S7 Airlines Flight 1159 (at 01:23) and Ural Airlines Flight 2758 (at 01:28).

After aborting the landing Flydubai Flight 981 entered a holding pattern near the airport where it waited for better weather conditions for two hours. In the initial 30 minutes of the hold the aircraft maintained 2400 m (8000 ft) and after that it climbed to 4600 m (15000 ft). Minutes after Flydubai Flight 981's aborted landing attempt Aeroflot Flight 1166 made three unsuccessful landing attempts at the airport (at 01:54, 2:07, 2:17) and decided to divert to the nearby Krasnodar International Airport where it landed at 02:59 local time.


At the time of the aborted landing attempts the weather conditions were adverse. Recorded wind speeds were around 14-22 m/s (27-43 kn, 31-49 mph). ATC reported that wind direction was 230 degrees and wind speed was 12 m/s (23 kn, 27 mph) with gusts to 18 m/s (35 kn, 40 mph) just shortly before the accident. The visibility was 3500 m (11500 ft) and earlier flights reported icing conditions.

Some sources report that a rare low-altitude jet stream with wind speeds above 30 m/s (58 kn, 67 mph) which usually can be observed at altitudes of over 5000 m (16000 ft) was observed this time as low as 629 m (2064 ft) around the airport. Some experts also consider wind shear (a sudden change in wind speed or direction) as a contributor to the crash.


The aircraft started its second landing attempt at 03:28 local time. They intended to land on runway 22 and according to ATC the pilots informed that in case of another go around they will climb to FL 80 (2400 m / 8000 ft).

Minutes later, at 03:36 the aircraft managed to intercept the runway 22 localizer some 10 nautical miles (19 km) from the runway and informed ATC while continuing to descend. When they were at 480 m (1570 ft) altitude and 5.5 km (3.4 mi) from the runway the crew aborted the second landing attempt and broadcasted their intention to Air Traffic Control with "Going around, Sky Dubai 981". At this moment ATC advised the crew to switch to another controller saying "Sky Dubai 981, contact Rostov Radar on 121.2". The crew acknowledged with "121.2, bye bye". This was the final transmission from the crew. The crew increased speed of the aircraft and climbed to 1200 m (3900 ft) within 43 seconds. At 03:41:37 local time the aircraft entered a steep, high speed dive and crashed immediately east of the approach end of runway 22 of Rostov on Don Airport.

The crash site of Flydubai Flight 981
The crash site of Flydubai Flight 981

The crash was followed by an explosion which was captured by a CCTV camera. The video (which was later uploaded online) shows the aircraft hitting the ground at high speed and the following explosion.

The air traffic controller advised the emergency services of the crash at 03:42 local time.

According to sources within the rescue team the speed of the aircraft at the moment of impact was more then 400 km/h and the aircraft hit the ground at an angle of about -60 degrees. The Flightradar24 data seems to match this initial assessment. The small radius of the debris field and the debris parts also match the characteristics of a high speed impact. Even the aircraft's magnesium allow wheel rims (the most solid part of the aircraft) shattered upon impact.

The aircraft had fuel for 8.5 hours of flight. At the moment of impact it had been flying for 6 hours.

Flydubai Flight 981 - Timeline of the events

Date and time
22:30 Dubai local time Flydubai Flight 981 departs Dubai International Airport
01:39 Rostov local time start of Flight 981's first landing attempt
01:42 Rostov local time Flight 981 aborts first landing attempt
03:28 Rostov local time The crew starts the second landing attempt
03:36 Rostov local time The aircraft intercepted the runway 22 localizer at 10 nautical miles (19 km) from the runway
03:40:54 Rostov local time The crew aborted the second landing attempt
03:41:37 Rostov local time The aircraft enters a steep high speed dive and crashes
03:42 Rostov local time the air traffic controller alerts local emergency services about the crash
A commission was established by the MAK - Interstate Aviation Committee - Accident Investigation Board to investigate the crash
NTSB announced that it will assist the MAK - Interstate Aviation Committee - Accident Investigation Board in the investigation
Boeing announced that it will assist the MAK in the investigation
The crash investigation commission completed the debris field survey and mapping
Both flight recorders were recovered and sent to Moscow for examination and read out
night The wreckage has been removed from the runway and infrastructure was repaired
morning First flights of the Russian Ministry of Emergencies landed on the reopened runway

Passengers and crew

People on board by nationality
Nationality Passengers Crew
Flag of Russia Russia 44 1
Flag of Ukraine Ukraine 8 0
Flag of India India 2 0
Flag of Uzbekistan Uzbekistan 1 0
Flag of Spain Spain 0 2
Flag of Colombia Colombia 0 1
Flag of Cyprus Cyprus 0 1
Flag of Kyrgyzstan Kyrgyzstan 0 1
Flag of Seychelles Seychelles 0 1
Total fatalities: 55 7


The aircraft's captain was Aristos Sokratous (38 years old) from Cyprus. During his career captain Sokratous had flown 5965 hours. He was promoted to captain about one and a half years before the crash (The required minimal number of hours for becoming a captain at Flydubai is 5000). His wife was due to give birth to their first child just weeks after the crash and he wanted to be close to his family. Because of this at the time of the crash he already accepted a job from Ryanair and he was going to quit Flydubai.

Spanish Alejandro Cruz Alava was the first officer of the flight. He was 37 years old and accumulated 5769 hours of flying time. Before joining Flydubai some two years before the crash he worked at two regional airlines in the Canary Islands: Binter and Naysa.

Both pilots had experience landing at Rostov on Don Airport.


From the 55 passengers 44 (including 4 children) were Russian citizens. 30 of the passengers were tourists on a package tour from Natalie Tours - one of the largest Russian tour operators.

Notable passengers were Igor Pakus (chief pysician of the Rostov Oblast regional hospital and member of the Regional Legislative Assembly) and Elvira Belyakova (head of Rostvertol's pension fund).


In the morning after the crash the Russian MAK - Interstate Aviation Committee - Accident Investigation Board established a commission to investigate the accident. The commission is led by Russian air accident investigators but includes representatives of the aviation authorities of the United Arab Emirates (the state where the plane and the operator of the plane were registered), the NTSB (as representative of the state where the aircraft was manufactured), the BEA (as the representative of France - where the aircraft's engines were manufactured), Boeing (as the manufacturer of the aircraft).

A criminal investigation was also opened by the Russian Investigative Committee to look into any possible safety violations that might have lead to the accident. This criminal investigation has been assigned to a team of fifty investigators. Among the possible reasons for the crash are considered: crew error, technical failure, adverse weather and other factors. Terrorism was ruled out from the beginning.

A day after the crash on 20 March 2016 the air crash investigation commission announced that it had completed the debris field survey and the mapping of the crash site. The collection of the debris was in progress and was expected to be finished by the early morning of 21 March 2016. The team also analyzed radar data, ATC and crew communication and weather data. Also on the 20 March 2016 the flight recorders of the aircraft were found and were sent to Moscow for read out.

The FDR - Flight data recorder was analysed on the same day and it was found to be functioning normally during the fatal flight. Data was recorded up until the moment of the impact and it was preserved in good quality. The experts started to analyze the information retrieved from the FDR.

The Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR) however suffered significant damage and its data cable was destroyed. After an X-ray examination of the memory modules and the interface cable the experts will try to repair the cable ad examine the condition of its non volatile memory module.


none yet


After the crash the Governator of the Rostov Oblast, Vasily Golubev announced that the families of the victims would receive 1 million rubles (around $15000 USD) from the government. Also the day following the crash was declared as a day of mourning in the Rostov region.

Further reading

Airlines in the United Arab Emirates
List of aviation accidents by year

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