Senior managers, top civil aviation officials convicted over passenger plane crash
All 50 passengers and seven crew members were killed in the accident, one of the worst in Turkey’s recent history. DHA Photo
Eight suspects were handed jail sentences, including senior managers and high-ranking civil aviation officials, while 12 others were acquitted Jan. 6 in a trial into the crash of a passenger plane in the southern province of Isparta in 2007 that killed 57 people.
The AtlasJet plane, which was rented by World Focus Airlines, was traveling from Istanbul to Isparta when it crashed on Nov. 30, 2007, during landing despite no apparent technical problems or unfavorable weather conditions. An investigation pointed to pilot error as a result of a loss of spatial orientation, which itself was prompted by several procedural errors.
The general manager of World Focus Airlines, Aydın Kızıltan, the company’s training manager, İsmail Taşdelen, and AtlasJet Manager Yavuz Çizmeci were sentenced to 11 years and eight months each on charges of “negligent homicide.”
A technician from World Focus Airlines received a prison sentence of five years and 10 months, while two pilots, Vedat Örs and Recep Değirmencioğlu, were sentenced to two-and-a-half years each for false testimony.
The court also convicted high-ranking civil aviation officials. The former general manager of civil aviation, Ali Arıduru, and Deputy Director General Oktay Erdağı were handed one year and eight months on charges of “misconduct in office.”
Following the accident, Arıduru was alleged of being bribed by World Focus Airlines, which was accused of paying the civil aviation manager’s hotel and luxury car fees.
All 50 passengers and seven crew members were killed in the accident, one of the worst in Turkey’s recent history. Passengers included prominent nuclear physicians such as Engin Arık and Fatma Şenel Boydağ, as well as other scholars who were due in Isparta to attend a physics conference at Süleyman Demirel University.
The plane took off past midnight with a delay of two hours after returning late from a previous flight from Pristina. The area where the plane crashed raised questions as it was not on the “official” route of the plane. The investigation showed that the pilots decided to change their route after experiencing spatial disorientation. It also stressed that the pilots were both tired due to a number of previous flights and had not trained with the McDonnell Douglas MD-83 plane rented from World Focus Airlines. The plane, produced in 1994, was bought by the Turkish company in 2005. It was rented on July 29 to the local low-coast carrier AtlasJet with the cabin crew and pilots together.
The carrier dismissed its top management following the accident and managed to survive as it expanded flights to a number of countries, including Iraq, Armenia, South Sudan and Saudi Arabia.
AtlasJet, a private airline established in 2001, operates regular flights inside Turkey and chartered flights to Europe and other foreign destinations.