The crew of the Tu-154 was ordered to drop to a lower altitude 50 seconds in advance and obeyed 25 seconds before the collision: such was the information deciphered from one of the jet's "black boxes", reported Switzerland's Radio and TV Information Service.
This information contradicts an earlier report from the air traffic control Skyguide, which said the crew of the Russian liner was warned by the air traffic controller 90 seconds before the tragedy.
Commenting on this report, Skyguide spokesman Toni Maag admitted that the Tu-154 crew had next to no time to avoid collision with the Boeing, but refused to comment on the air traffic controller's actions.
The latter, according to a local TV report, spent Tuesday "in a state of shock." He will be interrogated on Wednesday or Thursday. At the moment of the tragedy, according to Maag, the air traffic controller was in the flight control center all alone -- his workmate had taken a day off.
The catastrophe occurred Tuesday night above Boden See, Southern Germany, and involved a Russian Tu-154 passenger jet belonging to the Bashkirian Airlines and a Boeing-757 belonging to DHL company. The collision claimed the lives of the 12 crew members and 57 passengers on board Tu-154 and 2 pilots on board the Boeing. Among the passengers, 52 were children heading for Spain for a holiday.
The choice of the city of Helsinki is not incidental as the capital of Finland had hosted US-Soviet negotiations on the limitation of nuclear stockpiles in 1969