Passenger Jet Crash Lands In Central Russia, Kills 6

Saturday, March 17th 2007, 2:36 pm
By: News On 6

MOSCOW (AP) _ A Russian airliner came down short of a runway in heavy fog Saturday, bouncing and then flipping onto its back. Six people were killed and 26 injured, the government said.

Prosecutors investigating the crash in the central Russian city of Samara said bad weather and pilot error were the most likely causes.

The plane was a Tu-134 passenger jet owned by Russian airline UTAir. Experts say the aging Tu-134, the workhorse of Russian civil aviation, is harder to land than more modern aircraft, especially in bad weather. Transport officials have ordered the planes gradually phased out because of that and other problems.

The plane, carrying 50 passengers and seven crew, was en route from the Siberian city of Surgut to the western city of Belgorod with a stop in Samara, a city on the Volga river, about 550 miles southeast of Moscow.

The Emergency Situations Ministry Web site listed six people killed in the crash and 26 who were hospitalized with injuries.

After the crash, the plane's wrecked fuselage lay on thick snow yards from the landing strip, its wings, tail and engine scattered about as rescuers worked to evacuate surviving victims and bodies of the dead and police searched for clues.

Yuri Naryshkin, a spokesman for regional emergency authorities, told NTV television the plane touched down before the landing strip, then overturned.

Prosecutors probing the crash said in an official statement that the plane touched down about 400 yards short of the landing strip. Regional prosecutor Alexei Kopylov told NTV television that pilot error and bad weather were regarded as the primary causes of the crash.

Rossiya television channel cited UTAir officials as saying that plane had been in good condition and was flown by an experienced pilot. A company spokeswoman reached by the Associated Press declined comment.

Emergency officials said they had retrieved the plane's flight recorders, the Interfax news agency reported.

The last major crash of a Russian airliner was on Aug. 22, when a Tu-154 operated by Pulkovo Airlines crashed in Ukraine, killing all 170 people aboard.

Last month, Transport Minister Igor Levitin ordered the Tu-134 and Tu-154 phased out of civilian use over the next five years. Russia ended production of Tu-134 planes in the early 1980s. Complete Tu-154 jets are no longer being built. Existing ones are being upgraded with more modern spare parts.