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Two Jetliners Collide Above Germany


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2 Jetliners Collide Above Germany

Authorities Fear Many Casualties

By Keith B. Richburg

Washington Post Foreign Service

Tuesday, July 2, 2002; Page A09

PARIS, July 2 (Tuesday) -- A large cargo plane and a Russian-made passenger jet collided in midair late Monday over southern Germany, leaving debris strewn across a 25-mile area, buildings on the ground in flames and fears that the casualty toll could be high.

There was no immediate word on casualties, and even the reports on the number of people aboard the planes were conflicting. One of the planes, a Russian-made Tupolev-154, was believed to be carrying at least 95 passengers at the time of the collision, according to German police officials quoted today by news agencies.

The other plane was a Boeing 757 cargo aircraft operated by the package delivery service, DHL, according to an air traffic controller at a Frankfurt airport. It was believed to be carrying two people. Some police officials said they feared all of those aboard the planes were dead.

The scene was described as chaotic on the ground in the hours immediately after the collision, which occurred at about 11:45 p.m. Monday over the German state of Baden-Wuerttemberg, on the Swiss border. German ARD Television quoted one witness as saying he saw two large fireballs in the night sky.

The Tupolev airliner was en route from Moscow to Barcelona and had landed briefly in Munich, the main German news agency DPA reported. The cargo plane was on its way from Bahrain to Brussels, the report said.

Immediately after the crash, dogs and helicopters were being used to search for survivors, according to television broadcasts and news agency reports. The Reuters news agency said at least two bodies had been pulled from the wreckage.

Other reports said several buildings were on fire, including a school and a farmhouse. There was no word about possible casualties on the ground.

The Tu-154 has been called the workhorse of Russia's aging fleet, but safety experts have raised concern about its reliability after a string of crashes over the past decade that have killed 600 people. Among those crashes was one in July 2001 in Siberia, which killed 143 people.

While midair collisions are extremely rare, particularly in relation to the number of flights in the air, some statistics show the numbers have remained relatively steady, though small. Mid-air collisions most often involve smaller aircraft, but the risks have grown over the years as airspace has become more congested.

In southern Germany, residents had been concerned recently about the increased traffic in the area, particularly planes coming over the border from Zurich, according to television reports. The collision occurred in an area above Lake Constance, which is bordered by Germany, Switzerland and Austria.

Currently, Europe's airspace is a patchwork of national air corridors each controlled by one country. The European Union has been pushing for the creation of a "single sky," that would harmonize technical standards and create corridors that would cut across the old national land borders.

But air traffic controllers are opposed to such a change, claiming it would endanger lives and lead to a loss of jobs as various air traffic control systems are merged.

Monday's collision came after a devastating half-year for Europe's airline industry, which has been hit hard by a falloff in passengers and the economic slowdown that came after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the United States. Some of the hardest-hit airlines, such as SwissAir, have had to file for bankruptcy protection.

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Originally posted by nycmuzik2000

Maybe I'm stupid but I'm having a hard time understanding how two planes, especially one's as big as these 2, fly into each other at 35,000 feet.....:confused:

Yeah, right?/? I mean, it reminds me of the TWA flight that just "exploded" over long island years ago...

I hope there's enough pressure on the gov't to find out the cause of this one :(

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