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
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
British musician Mark Ronson arrives for the UK premiere of the film 'Mortdecai'
music
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
Sport
footballBrighton vs Arsenal match report
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has spoken about the lack of opportunities for black British actors in the UK
film
News
people
News
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

Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Associate / Partner - Bristol

Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

Day In a Page

Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us