The latest aviation accident in Russia involving an ageing Tupolev airliner is raising questions about the airworthiness of Russia’s civil aviation fleet.
While at least two people died in the accident, including the brother of the president of Dagestan, the pilots and crew are being praised for averting a far worse disaster. 172 people were on board, and 87 needed hospital treatment, but how more did not die is as much a mystery as the cause of the forced landing.
“The plane’s broken in half. It broke in half after the engines failed, and stopped just two metres from the airport fence. Had it hit the fence we wouldn’t be talking to you,” said one survivor.
The Tupolev 154, the same model in which Poland’s president and 90 others died in April, and 11 others died in a crash in Siberia in August, had just taken off from Moscow’s Vnukovo airport when all three of its engines failed and it lost its navigation system.
It turned back to Moscow, but on landing the electrical system failed , removing the “servo assists” from the brakes, so the plane overshot the runway and ploughed through trees before coming to rest.
The plane was operated by Dagestan Airlines and was heading for the Caucasian republic. The airline has been quick to insist its maintenance is of the highest standard, and the flight recorder is already being examined.