Plane makes emergency landing, two passengers killed
The two killed are Gadzhimurad Magomedov, the brother of Dagestan's president, and Ms. Gadzhieva, mother of Russia’s Constitutional Court judge Gadis Gadzhiev.
Several of the injured are in a critical condition.
“The meteorological conditions were very difficult. The crew was unable to see the runway lights properly. And when the plane reached a cloud-free zone there was little time left before landing,” said head of the Federal Air Navigation Authority, Aleksandr Neradko. “The plane landed to the right of the runway, crossed it, skidded to the left and continued on. Emergency services had been informed of the crash landing, so they had time to prepare, and evacuation started immediately when the plane stopped. The plane landed at 2.36 pm, and an hour later, all passengers had left the jet.”
The Tu-154 passenger jet, operated by Dagestan airlines, was carrying 169 people when it was forced to make an emergency landing following a triple engine failure.
“Thirty minutes into the flight, we were told we were going through some turbulence, the plane started descending and landing gear was lowered. I saw the airfield but I realized that our plane wasn't landing properly. I was scared,” one of the survivors told RT. “When our plane reached the runway, one wing was pointing up and the other down. We could only see the runway from one side of the plane. It landed at high speed and we felt a strong crash, but the plane kept on going. It was total chaos inside. Things were falling out of baggage compartments; people were screaming. The plane stopped a few meters from a concrete fence. Both wings were covered in kerosene. If not for the pilots, our plane would have burned.”
The plane had taken off from Moscow's Vnukovo airport at 2:07pm Moscow Time and was heading for the capital of the Russian Republic of Dagestan, Makhachkala.
“During [the plane’s] initial climb it reported total engine failure and decided to make an emergency landing at Domodedovo airport,” the airport’s press office stated. “During the landing it overshot the runway and broke up.”
The jet was seriously damaged. Additional emergency and fire crews have been dispatched to the scene.
Investigators have put forth two versions of the events, suggesting safety violations and an electrical failure as possible reasons for the crash landing.
“At this moment the black boxes and voice recorders are being removed from the site of the crash, as well as other valuable devices that have information about the plane’s flight path,” said Oleg Tushmalov from the Moscow Regional Transport Investigative Committee. “Everything is being done to determine what happened to the plane. Investigating teams are working at the site. Also, our team is working with crash survivors who are giving information as witnesses. A criminal investigation has been launched.”
However, head of Dagestan Airlines, Mirza Omariev, denied the possibility of negligence on the part of the service crew.
“This is a plane that underwent a full check-up in 2009, and what happened hardly ever happens,” Omariev said. “All the equipment was checked and serviced.”
Meanwhile, Russian pilot Magomed Tolboev said a lack of oversight could be a factor in the cause of the accident.
“Many things could have caused this accident. Small airlines have very little state oversight – the planes are not going through all necessary checks,” Tolboev said. “Money is paid for official papers while planes don’t even fly at factories for maintenance.”
Leonid Koshelev from Russia’s National Business Aviation Association expressed a similar view, insisting that the accident should not be blamed on the age and quality of the TU-154 aircraft.
“In aviation, we say that ‘an old airplane in good hands is a lot safer than a new airplane in bad hands,’” Koshelev said. “I don’t think it has to do with the age of the aircraft and with the type of the aircraft. [The] Tupolev 154 is not very modern. It should probably be phased out. But if it is properly maintained, it is definitely safe to fly.”
Aviation expert Yury Karash said that given the technical strengths of a TU-154 aircraft, a likely cause of the engine malfunction could have been poor maintenance.
“The Tupolev 154 is a very rugged passenger airplane which was designed to operate in the uneasy Russian operational environment – harsh weather, not very good runways, sometimes inadequate servicing. So the aircraft was supposed to fly in these conditions and to fly safely,” Karash said. “The aircraft is relatively young, just 18 years old. But you have to keep in mind that even the youngest aircraft may develop problems in flight if it is not adequately serviced on the ground. And I don’t know if [this aircraft] was timely and adequately serviced.”