ANKARA, Turkey — A Turkish Airlines jet crashed Thursday as the pilot tried to land in a snowstorm despite repeated warnings from the control tower to turn back. Fifty-four people were killed.
Most of the 76 passengers were military personnel flying from Ankara to the remote city of Van, about 50 miles west of Iran in the southeast, where the army is fighting Kurdish rebels.
The Boeing 737 crashed two miles from the airport as it made its third attempt to land. Two previous tries were aborted in harsh weather, said Faik Akin, a spokesman for the national carrier.
The Anatolia news agency said the pilot apparently tried to land after being warned off on the third pass.
"I will try once more," the pilot said moments before the crash, according to Anatolia.
"Do not land. I cannot even see you. I can only hear the plane's engine. Return to Ankara," the air traffic controller reportedly answered.
The airline's deputy technical director, Yusuf Bolayirli, told Anatolia that the pilot had the right to make as many landing attempts as he saw fit.
Survivor Abdullah Aslan, speaking from his hospital bed, said in a television interview that the plane almost touched the tarmac but pulled up at the last minute.
"After it hit the ground, I got up and walked out of the plane. There were screams, and I helped a few others to get out too," said Aslan, a soldier.
This was the seventh major Turkish Airlines crash in the last 21 years. In March, 1974, a Turkish Airlines DC-10 passenger jet crashed near Paris, killing all 346 aboard.