Airplane Crashes in Russia With 28 Folks Aboard


MOSCOW – A passenger plane with 28 people on board crashed in Russia’s far east on Tuesday, authorities said, as the latest blow to the country’s sprawling but aging domestic aviation industry.

The plane, a Soviet An-26 flying a regional route on the mountainous Kamchatka Peninsula, lost radio contact with air traffic control about 10 minutes before it was expected to land in the city of Palana near the Sea of ​​Okhotsk. Hours later, aerial search teams found parts of the aircraft fuselage in the sea and on the coast.

Russian news agencies reported that there were no survivors. The plane, Kamchatka Aviation Enterprise Flight 251, appeared to be making a second attempt to land in fog when it hit a cliff.

“The crash presumably occurred during a go-around while landing in poor visibility,” Kamchatka Region Governor Vladimir Solodov said in a statement.

The incident marked Russia’s third major commercial aviation disaster in three and a half years. In 2018, an An-148 regional jet crashed into a field shortly after taking off from Moscow, killing all 71 on board. In 2019, a Russia-made Sukhoi SSJ-100 jet made a fiery emergency landing on a Moscow runway, killing 41 people.

And it was at least the second failure of a passenger plane that flew from Kamchatka’s capital Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky to Palana. In 2012, an An-28 approaching the remote town of around 3,000 residents crashed into a mountainside, killing 10 people.

The Russian aviation sector has been modernized in recent years and the state airline Aeroflot operates almost 200 Boeing and Airbus jets. But in the far-flung regions, where an airplane is sometimes the only means of travel available, airlines still often rely on rumbling, low-flying propeller-driven planes from the Soviet era.

On Kamchatka, a sparsely populated country with snow-capped peaks, geysers and volcanoes across the northern Pacific Ocean from Alaska, the regional airline Kamchatka Aviation Enterprise serves seven cities and villages from its Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky hub. The airline’s chief executive officer Aleksey Khrabrov said the crashed plane had been serviced “in full compliance with safety standards.”

The aircraft in question was first put into service in 1982, reported the state news agency Tass. Its previous operators include Air Mali in Africa and the United Nations, and it has been flying in Kamchatka since 2013, the news agency said.

Within hours of the crash on Tuesday, the regional government released the names of the people on the plane – six crew members and 22 passengers, including two children. Officials said bad weather was a likely cause. The law enforcement authorities said they were also examining the possibilities of a technical malfunction and a pilot’s error.

“The plane approached the landing in difficult weather conditions, with poor visibility and cross winds,” said an ambulance officer at the Interfax news agency. “The first time it wasn’t successful and the second time it hit a cliff without realizing it.”