Russian passengers hoping to leave the small city of Igarka in the Krasnoyarsk Krai region of Siberia had to push their plane so it could take off after its landing gear froze in glacial temperatures.
According to Russia’s Prosecutor General Office in charge of transport, the frozen landing gear meant the plane could not be towed to the landing strip. “Due to the low air temperatures, the chassis’s brake system froze and a tow truck was unable to move the plane onto the taxiway to carry out the flight,” prosecutors confirmed in a statement. “The passengers on board got out of the plane and started pushing it onto the taxiway.”
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The technical director of Krasnoyarsk-based Katekavia, Vladimir Artemenko, acknowledged the incident took place to Rossiyskaya Gazeta daily. “That morning it was minus 52 (minus 61 Fahrenheit). The plane had stood on the runway for 24 hours and the pilots forgot to take off the parking brake. That caused the brake pads to freeze up,” he said.
However, a few hours later, Artemenko told the Interfax news agency that there was no problem with the plane, and that passengers only helped pushing it because the tow truck started slipping on the ice.
In a video uploaded by one of the passengers, about 20 people wrapped in warm clothes are seen pushing the Tupolev 134, seemingly in a cheerful mood as the sun begins to set.
The aircraft, flying for the company Katekavia, brought its 81 passengers to the destination city of Krasnoyask after a three-hour flight that suffered virtually no delay, according to news agency AFP.
While the original video was deleted from YouTube a few hours after being uploaded, copies of the footage have emerged on the site. The original uploader was identified by social media news agency Storyful as Vladimir Ulyanov, listed on his social media profile as an employee of Russian oil company Rosneft and a resident of the Siberian city of Tomsk.
The airport’s director, however, suggested that the passengers had decided to push the plane for a joke, the AFP reports. “Most likely, the plane’s passengers, oil workers, decided to do a kind of ‘selfie’. It was a good joke and it became a big thing on the Internet,” said Maxim Aksyonov, quoted by the TASS agency.
Prosecutors warned that the stunt could have been dangerous. “They were pushing the plane as if it was a car that lost traction, which you categorically should not do due to the danger of damaging the skin of the fuselage,” said Oksana Gorbunova, an aide to transport prosecutors, cited by Interfax news agency.