A Superjet-100 [Aeroflot flight SU1492] plane with 73 passengers and 5 members of the crew onboard crash-landed in flames in the Moscow Sheremetyevo Airport on May 5.
So far, Russia’s Investigative Committee has confirmed that 41 people died in the crash-landing and fire. Authorities opened a case into an aircraft operation safety rules violation, which led to the deaths of “two or more people.”
According to reports, fire engines were deployed on the spot some two minutes after the plane crash-landing. By that moment, the fire reportedly engulfed the entire tail end of the jet.
Order of events based on official data and reports in the Russian media:
- The Superjet-100 took-off from Moscow on 18:02 (local time). The SU1492 is the flight between Moscow and Murmansk. The supposed flight time is about 2h 30m.
- The aircraft requested an emergency landing shortly after the take-off and returned to the airport on about 18:30 (local time);
- According to some reports, the initial reason of the emergency landing was that the crew had expiriences communication problems. Another version is that the reason of the need to return to the airport was a lightning strike, which hit the aircraft.
- The Superjet-100 did not land during the first try and had to make a second attempt to land.
- According to some reports, the engines fire happened after the first failed landing. Aeroflot confirmed that the engires catched the fire after the landing, but did not provide much details. Reportedly, even if the fire appeared in the air, it did not spread notably.
- Existing photos and videos allow to suggest that the plane catched fire after as a result of the crash-landing. The plane reportedly jumped-up 3 times, its chassis broke. The fire expanded as a result of the contact of the plane with the strip and a supposed fuel spillage [the SU1492 was in the air only about 28 minutes and reportedly saved more than 60% of its fuel].
- The fire engulfed the entire tail end of the jet. According to reprots, this became one of the main reasons of the casualties.
Видео из салона самолета Москва-Мурманск, сгоревшего при посадке в Шереметьево.
Люди в панике, огонь охватывает почти все за бортом. pic.twitter.com/CAjKgT8cZQ
— Breaking Mash (@BreakingMash) May 5, 2019
The main fire outbreak was reportedly caused by the crash-landing after the chassis had broken. If this is confirmed, this would be not the first time when the Superjet-100 expirienced issues with the chassis. In October 2018, the Superjet-100 [Aeroflot’s flight between Moscow and Hanty Mansijsk] returned to Moscow because of issues with the chassis.
Issues with the Russian civil aircraft industry are widely known. The ineffective management is among the key reasons of this situation. Another factor is an illogical system of the execution and control of contracts, which have the state behind them. A low level of control from the law enforcement system also impacts the situation.
An ordinary situation is the Russian civil aircraft industry:
- The state or a state-linked company signs a contract for planes, their maintenance and spare parts, and make payments in the framework of the existing subsidies and other state preferences;
- If a contract is signed in the end of the calendar year, first payments [after multiple checks and approvals] are often made not earlier than in the end of the first quarter or the start of the second quarter of the next year;
- The bureaucracy on the side of the producers leads to further delays and contractors receive funds event later;
- Monitoring institutions are often demanding the producer to stay in the schedule rather than to keep the high quality of the production.
This is a general example of the situation, which is common for many Russian companies linked to the state. This may not be linked to Sukhoi and its production. However, this is a widely-spread issue in the Russian economy. Furthermore, monitoring institutions often have no will and real practice of quality control of products and services provided by key enterprises of the Russian economy. There is a chance that this is the reason of technical issues with the Superjet and the MC-21 airliner [failure to deliver planes on time because of the lack of the needed middle-term planning].
We hope that authorities will find out the real reasons of the tragedy and this situation will lead to changes in the managing system in Russia’s government-linked corporations.
According to reports, one of the reason of the high casualties in the May 5 incident was behavior of some passengers. The exit was reportedly blocked by people who, in violations of demands of the cabin crew, were taking their bags and items from overhead bins. This reportedly blocked exit for people in the tail end of the jet.
These reports remain officially unconfirmed and it remains unclear how this situation influenced the final casualty number. Nonetheless, this kind of actions (blocking of the exit by people taking their bags and items) can be occasionally observed in flights of Russian companies.
We express our condolences to people who lost their relatives and loved ones in this tragedy. We believe that this incident should lead to an in-depth investigation and a comprehensive analysis of the reasons and consequences of the tragedy as well as the system issues with the management of Russia’s aviation industry.