Plane was attempting to land in thick fog
44 people were killed as a passenger jet crashed in heavy fog and burst into flames on Monday. The plane crashed on a highway in north-west Russia, short of just one runway whose fog lights had failed.
The plane was carrying 52 people including crew members, and left only eight survivors.
According to emergencies ministry spokeswoman, Oksana Semyonova, the Tu-134 plane belonged to the RusAir airline and was en route to the city of Petrozavodsk from Moscow.
Semyonova said the plane made a crash landing on its final approach to the airport, and was approximately a mile short of the runway before it split apart and burst into flames.
Photographs from the scene show a background of thick fog with fragments of metal strewn across the road. The only recognisable part of the plane was a landing gear protruding out of the ground.
No explanation for the crash given
It is reportedly unclear as to whether the plane intended an attempt to land on the road or whether it fell there. Authorities have been unable to provide any immediate justification for the accident, although airport director Alexei Kuzmitsky has been quoted as saying there were “unfavourable weather conditions”.
Alexei Morozov, deputy head of the Interstate Aviation Committee, said that the pilot’s troubles in the bad weather were only compounded by the failure of the runway’s high intensity illumination, which is supposed to be made useful in times of low visibility.
A representative from RusAir who prefers to remain anonymous said that although weather conditions were tricky, they “weren’t critical”, and added that the plane was in good working order.
Another blow to Russia’s deteriorating air traffic record
According to the International Air Transport Association, Russia and other Soviet republics hold some of the world’s worst air traffic records. Experts blame this on factors such as poor pilot training, cost cutting mentality and weak government controls.