Human error may be to blame for the Russian plane crash that killed 71 people, Russian investigators said on Tuesday, noting that the plane's pilots failed to turn on the heating unit for its measuring equipment, resulting in flawed speed data.
After studying the An-148's flight data recorder, the Interstate Aviation Committee said that Sunday's crash near Moscow occurred after the pilots saw conflicting data on the plane's two air speed indicators.
The flawed readings came because the pilots failed to turn on the heating unit for the plane's pressure measurement equipment prior to takeoff, the committee said.
The pilots had placed the An-148 on autopilot after taking off from Moscow's Domodedovo Airport but took its manual controls back when they heard alarm signals warning of conflicting speed data. One indicator showed the plane's speed at zero, investigators said.
The pilots then performed a series of maneuvers and eventually took the plane into a dive at 3035 degrees. It plummeted into a snowy field outside of Moscow six minutes after takeoff, killing all 65 passengers and six crew onboard.
The committee said it is continuing its investigation, but noted that "erroneous data on the pilots' speed indicators may have been a factor that triggered the special flight situation".
The IAC said it still had to analyse the black box which recorded cockpit conversations.
Iced-over speed instruments were previously named as the likely reason behind the crash of the Air France 447 flight into the Atlantic in 2009, killing 228 people on board.
Emergency workers have been combing through the deep snow at the site of Sunday's accident. On Tuesday, the emergency ministry said they recovered 1,400 body parts and 500 plane fragments.
Authorities were taking DNA samples from relatives of the victims in order to complete identification. The Emergency Ministry added that it would soon lift the main plane debris from the site.