Russian Hockey Team Plane Crash Caused by Pilot Error: Investigators
At a news conference, MAK technical commission chairman Alexey Morozov said inexperienced pilots inadvertently applied braking during the aircraft’s take-off. The pilot decided to take off at 190 kilometers (118 miles) per hour, which is 20 kilometers (12.4 miles) per hour slower than required for the actual take-off weight of 54 tons (108,000 pounds) and nominal power regime of the engines.
Although the investigation did not show which pilot was responsible, it revealed that one of the two pilots was apparently pressing hard on a brake pedal while pulling the control yoke up, RIA Novosti reported.
The Yak-Service Airlines plane, with 37 passengers and 8 crew members on board, crashed on September 7 as it was attempting to take off from Tunoshna Airport in Yaroslavl Oblast, which is about 250 kilometers (160 miles) northeast of Moscow. Among the 44 fatalities were several foreigners.
According to investigators, the aircraft was in good technical condition and at least four causes contributed to the crash, including a lack of pilot training, the absence of control over the crew’s preparation for flight, the pilots’ failure to follow standard takeoff procedures and poor coordination between the crew during the takeoff.
Furthermore, investigators learned that one of the pilots had traces of a sedative drug in his blood and the other had been diagnosed with a motor-skill debilitating disease. It showed that neither pilot was fit to fly an aircraft.
Russian national side player Alexander Galimov and crew-member Alexander Sizov miraculously survived the crash, but both remained in a serious condition until Galimov eventually passed away a couple of days later.
The Yak-42 aircraft was carrying the Lokomotiv Yaroslavi ice hockey team to the Belarusian capital of Minsk to play a game, and International Ice Hockey Federation president Rene Fasel called the crash “the darkest day in the history of our sport.”
Russia has seen a number of major aviation accidents over the last few years, in part because of its use of old aircraft. In early August, eleven people were killed when an Antonov-12 transport plane crashed in the country’s Far East.
Most notably, Polish President Lech Kaczynski was among 96 people killed on April 10, 2010 when his Tupolev Tu-154M aircraft crashed near the city of Smolensk in Russia. He was visiting Smolensk for the 70th anniversary of the massacre of Polish prisoners of war in the village of Katyn.