Russian airline rules out technical fault or pilot error
The crash could only have been the result of some other "physical action" which caused it to break up in the air, the airline said
The Russian airline whose jet crashed in Egypt killing everyone on board said on Monday the crash could not have been caused by a technical fault or human error.
The crash, in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula on Saturday, could only have been the result of some other "technical or physical action" which caused it to break up in the air and plummet to the ground, said Alexander Smirnov, deputy general director of the airline, Kogalymavia.
He did not specify what that action might have been, saying it was up to the official investigation to determine.
"The plane was in excellent condition," Smirnov told a news conference in Moscow. "We rule out a technical fault and any mistake by the crew," he said.
He said there had been no emergency call from the pilots to services on the ground during the flight, which took off from the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh and was bound for the Russian city of St Petersburg.
Kogalymavia's deputy general director for engineering, Andrei Averyanov, said a 2001 incident when the plane's tail section struck the tarmac on landing was fully repaired and could not have been a factor in the crash.
He said the aircraft's engines had undergone routine inspection in Moscow on Oct. 26 which found no problems and he said in the five flights before the crash, the crew recorded no technical problems in the aircraft's log book.
Oksana Golovina, a representative of the holding company that controls Kogalymavia, told the news conference the airline had experienced no financial problems which could have influenced flight safety.
Black box analysis
A source in the committee analyzing the black box recorders said the Russian airliner was not struck from the outside and the pilot did not make a distress call before it disappeared from radar.
The source declined to give more details but based his comments on the preliminary examination of the black boxes recovered from the flight.
Meanwhile, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev called on Monday for a thorough investigation into the plane crash.
"The key task is to investigate in detail what caused the tragedy," Medvedev said in remarks showed by Rossiya-24 state television.
A Kremlin spokesman also said there are not yet any grounds to rule out any theory for the crash of a Russian airliner in Egypt.
Victims flown back home
A plane carrying the remains of scores of people killed in the plane crash landed in Saint-Petersburg early on Monday, an Agence France-Presse correspondent at the scene said.
The plane, the first to bring back the bodies of those who died when Russian airline Kogalymavia's flight 9268 crashed in Sinai Peninsula, arrived in the Pulkovo airport of the country's second-largest city at around 0300GMT.
Russian officials confirmed that 144 bodies were on board the plane. Egypt had earlier said that it would transport the remains of 162 people.
The remains were to be taken in a motorcade to a crematorium in Saint Petersburg for identification, which will begin later on Monday, according to Russia's emergency ministry, which organised the flight.
Family members have been providing DNA samples at a crisis centre set up close to the airport, now the site of an impromptu memorial where people are bringing flowers and cuddly toys to commemorate the victims, many of them children as young as 10 months old.
Most of those who died were vacationers from Saint-Petersburg and the surrounding region who were due to come back home at midday Saturday from the popular Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.
The White House said on Monday U.S. investigators have offered to help Russian and Egyptian authorities determine the cause of the Russian plane crash.