German airline Lufthansa has said they will no longer fly over the Sinai peninsula ‘as long as the cause for the crash has not been clarified’. A spokeswoman for the airline said ‘security is our highest priority’, adding that it would use detours to service airports in the region. Air France has also confirmed that it will not be flying through the restive area until the reasons behind the crash become clear. Meanwhile, British Airways has reportedly ordered its pilots to avoid low flying over Egypt in the wake of the deadly crash. Hundreds of flights, carrying British passengers to tourist hot spots such as Sharm el-Sheikh, will continue to fly over the region. But pilots have been secretly told to be more cautious about their altitude amid concerns of a terror attack, The Sun reports. The maximum height a surface-to-air missile could strike is thought to be 25,000 feet. A spokesperson told AFP the measure was taken ‘as a precaution’ while ‘clarification’ was sought over the cause of the incident.
Most of the bodies recovered from the crash site have been burned. At the time, the aircraft would have been carrying a very heavy fuel load.
Ayman al-Mugadem of the Aviation Incidents Committee said the pilot warned air traffic controllers that aircraft had developed ‘a technical problem’ and he needed to land as soon as possible. However, he then lost contact with controllers – and the plane vanished from radar screens, he said. Al-Mugadem’s comments were later contradicted by Kamal, who insisted communications were ‘normal’ before the crash. According to radar data, the aircraft was descending at more than 6,000 feet per minute shortly before the impact.
A statement from an ISIS-linked group being broadcast on jihadist propaganda channels said: “A Russian plane was dropped with the destruction of more than 220 Russian Crusaders, thankfully.”
However, the aircraft vanished from radar screens at 30,000 feet, more than double the effective range of a shoulder-carried ground-to-air weapon system.
It quoted a source as saying: “This operation came in response to raids by Russian planes that have caused the deaths of hundreds of Muslims on Syrian territory, most of them women and children.”