With speculation still raging as to what caused the crash of the Russian Airbus A321 passenger plane, another expert has come forward to claim that the airliner may have been hijacked.
Dale Leppard, former chairman of the International Federation of Airline Pilots Association (IFALPA) Accident Analysis Committee, told Sputnik News that the behavior of the aircraft suggests it might have been commandeered by someone other than the pilot.
“The report that the aircraft was alternatively climbing and descending rapidly might indicate that there were severe control problems with the aircraft, or that someone other than the pilot had taken over and was trying to crash the aircraft,” said Leppard.
Leppard, who has been involved in aircraft accident investigations for over 45 years, agreed with the emerging consensus that a bomb may have been planted on the plane.
“It does appear that the aircraft was coming apart well before it struck the ground, as they found bodies and wreckage as far away as three miles from the crash site,” he said.
The plane, which carried 217 passengers and seven crew members, crashed in the Sinai Peninsula, an area in which ISIS jihadist affiliate groups are active.
The theory that a missile took down the plane, an explanation already in doubt given the flight’s 31,000 feet altitude, was further discredited when U.S. officials said infrared satellite data did not show any evidence of a heat trail from the ground.
What the imagery did show was a sudden heat flash in the vicinity of where the plane went down, suggesting an explosion on board the plane itself, whether caused by a bomb or a ruptured fuel tank.
“The plane disintegrated at a very high altitude,” when, as the infrared satellite indicates, “there was an explosion of some kind,” an intelligence official told NBC News.
Russian news service Tass is also reporting that, “elements that were not part of the plane” were found at the crash site and have been sent for analysis . These could be personal items belonging to the passengers or fragments of a bomb.
Although ISIS has claimed responsibility for the crash, no serious evidence has been presented to prove it, while Russia appears keen to downplay any evidence of a terror attack for political purposes.
Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi insisted that security forces were in “full control” of the Sinai area, rubbishing claims that ISIS could have downed the airliner.
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