A RusAir passenger jet, a Tupolev 134, crashed in northern Russia on Monday the 21st of June, killing 47. The five remaining survivors, including one crew member, are still being treated in hospital.
The flight was en route from Domodedovo airport in Moscow to the city of Petrozavodsk. The Federal Aviation Regulator stated that the approach was conducted in darkness and poor weather, with a cloud base of 170m and visibility of 2,100 metres.
The aircraft’s approach was too low. It clipped a tree and severed the power line to the airport, causing the runway lights to go off for ten seconds. An air traffic controller on site stated that the airport visibility was at minimum and that the crew should not have continued their descent. He said that he ordered the crew to abort when the runway lights went off but it was too late.
The Deputy Prime Minister, Sergei Ivanov, claimed that the crew had failed to see the runway and instead were attempting to land on the road.
The captain had logged 8,500 hours including 3,100 hours on the Tu-134, while the co-pilot had 813 hours on type from a total of 2,580 hours.
Moscow-based Interstate Aviation Committee (MAK) is investigating the incident. The preliminary findings have not found any technical faults with the Tupolev and have attributed the disaster to pilot error.
The experts have ruled out technical failure as the possible cause of Tu-134 crash. In both reports on the circumstances of the crash, MAK said the engines of the Tu-134 passenger jet were operating normally, as were all radar, electronic, lighting and other systems at the airport where the Tu-134 airliner crashed.
Pilot error has been identified as the most likely cause of the tragedy.
The only surviving crew member, Yulia Skvortsova, confirmed that it was not a planned emergency landing. She stated that the co-pilot was at the controls at the time of the landing and believes that the aircraft did not go around because the co-pilot wanted to save fuel.
Skvortsova is still being treated at a Moscow hospital, but had been released from the intensive therapy unit on Monday. She believes that the ill-fated aircraft did not make a second landing approach, despite the bad weather, because the second pilot wanted to save fuel. Small airlines like the one which operated the crashed plane often fine pilots for overspending.
Ukranews.com reported that the aircraft did not have enough fuel for a second approach although this has not been confirmed by MAK.
The Russian president, Dmitry Medvedev, has insisted that the remaining Tupolev 134 airliners must be withdrawn from service. In addition, the air transport safety chief has reaffirmed that any commercial airliners that do not have collision-avoidance technology installed by next year will be grounded.
This video from Reuters shows amateur video footage directly after the accident: