Russian airliner crashed after 'tired' pilots botched the first landing attempt

They deliberately put the plane into steep dive before diving nose-first into the ground

Moscow

Video footage of the Russian air crash in which all 50 people on board were killed, including one Briton, shows the Tatarstan Airlines jet diving nose-first towards the ground before exploding in a huge ball of fire.

Investigators have determined that pilot error was almost certainly the cause of the disaster in the eastern regional capital Kazan.

After studying the plane’s black box data, investigators from the Inter-State Aviation Commission said the plane’s engines and other systems were functioning right up until it slammed into the ground.

According to its report, the two pilots had botched a landing attempt and were preparing to try again. They pulled up at a sharp angle, causing a loss of speed, then tried to gain it back by going into a steep dive at 2,200 feet.

The Commission  confirmed what many had suspected in the immediate aftermath of the crash and added another woeful line to Russia’s abysmal air safety record. In 2011 it was deemed the most dangerous country in the world for air travel, according to aviation consultants Ascend.

Fatalities and crashes in Russia exceeded those in all other countries, the report found. That year, 10 fatal air accidents killed 119 people in Russia, including a crash in Yaroslavl that killed the entire Lokomotiv Yaroslavl professional hockey team.

Experts say pilot fatigue continues to plague of the country’s rapidly expanding airline industry, raising doubts that reforms have improved safety. Russia’s leadership has promised reforms to combat the rash of air accidents, but little has been achieved.

“It was not just one plane that crashed in Kazan but the entire airline industry and, to be honest, the entire Russian government system,” opposition State Duma deputy Dmitry Gudkov wrote on his blog after Sunday’s crash.

Officials have blamed small “dwarf” carriers for cutting corners and evading regulations, resulting in the majority of accidents. After the Yaroslavl crash in September 2011, then-president Dmitry Medvedev called for “the number of airlines to be radically reduced”,  and the Transportation Ministry drafted legislation stipulating that a company have a minimum of 10 planes to operate, to be raised to 20 planes by this year.

No law was passed, however, and in April 2012 a flight packed with oil executives operated by the small carrier Utair crashed in the Siberian region of Tyumen, killing 31.

Tatarstan Airlines, the operator of the Boeing 737-500 that crashed Sunday, is a small carrier, with seven planes, according to its website. The plane was reportedly being leased from a Bulgarian company and was previously involved in minor accidents in Brazil and Kazan. Tatarstan Airlines could not be reached for comment.

According to the prosecutor general’s office, human error causes about 80 per cent of air crashes in Russia, state news agency RIA-Novosti reported. Flight personnel unions say packed flight schedules are increasing mistakes, and the rapid pace of growth in Russia’s air industry was forcing pilots to fly too much, with regulations not being properly enforced.

“The main problem is fatigue of pilots,” Igor Obodkov, spokesman for the Sheremetyevo Air Staff Union, a union for employees of Russia’s largest Aeroflot airline, told The Independent.

Russian law stipulates 70 days of vacation for pilots each year, but an investigation of Aeroflot found that many pilots were owed 100 back-days, Obodkov said.

The pilots’ “tiredness could have influenced events” that led to the Kazan disaster, he added.

He noted that the Commission’s report of the April 2012 crash in Tyumen showed that the plane’s pilots had not had enough rest between flights.

“We are suspecting that they will find same thing here. People were tired,” Obodkov said.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
people
News
A boy holds a chick during the Russian National Agricultural Exhibition Golden Autumn 2014 in Moscow on October 9, 2014.
news
Life and Style
love + sex
Sport
Ashley Young celebrates the winner for Manchester United against Newcastle
footballNewcastle v United 1 player ratings
Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Sport
Ashley Young celebrates the winner for Manchester United against Newcastle
footballNewcastle 0 Man United 1: Last minute strike seals precious victory
Life and Style
Tikka Masala has been overtaken by Jalfrezi as the nation's most popular curry
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Seth Rogan is one of America’s most famous pot smokers
filmAmy Pascal resigned after her personal emails were leaked following a cyber-attack sparked by the actor's film The Interview
News
Benjamin Netanyahu and his cartoon bomb – the Israeli PM shows his ‘evidence’
people
Arts and Entertainment
80s trailblazer: comedian Tracey Ullman
tv
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: UI / UX Designer

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This firm are focussed on assis...

Recruitment Genius: General Processor

£7 per hour: Recruitment Genius: A vacancy has arisen for a General Processor ...

Recruitment Genius: Outbound Sales Executive - B2B

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A great opportunity has arisen ...

Recruitment Genius: Online Sales and Customer Services Associate

£14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Full time and Part time positio...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot