Emergency teams search for remains after 71 killed in Russian plane crash
Saratov Airlines said the plane had received proper maintenance and passed all the necessary checks before the flight.
Emergency teams are searching for the remains of 71 people killed on a Russian airliner which crashed into a field outside Moscow just moments after take-off.
The An-148 twin-engine internal flight to Orsk in the southern Urals went down shortly after leaving Moscow’s Domodedovo airport on Sunday afternoon, killing all 65 passengers and six crew on board.
Russian transport minister Maxim Sokolov said the search for victims’ remains will take a week. He noted that emergency teams have already found the Saratov Airlines plane’s flight data recorder, which is crucial for determining the cause of the crash.
Russian investigators quickly ruled out a terror attack, but will not speculate on what could have caused the tragedy.
The crash re-ignited questions about the An-148, since the model’s safety record is spotty, with one previous crash and a series of major incidents in which pilots struggled to land safely.
The Investigative Committee, Russia’s premier state investigative agency, said the plane was intact and there had been no fire on board before it hit the ground.
The plane’s fuel tanks exploded on impact, scattering debris across 30 hectares (74 acres) in deep snow, according to the Russian emergency ministry, which used drones to direct the search.
The 65 passengers ranged in age from five to 79, according to a list posted by officials. Most victims were from Orsk, where authorities declared an official day of mourning on Monday.
Saratov Airlines said the plane had received proper maintenance and passed all the necessary checks before the flight. The plane was built in 2010 for a different airline which operated it for several years before putting it in storage. Saratov Airlines commissioned it last year.
The airline said the plane’s captain had more than 5,000 hours of flying time, 2,800 of them in an An-148. The other pilot had 812 hours of experience, largely in that model.
The An-148 was once touted as an example of Russian-Ukrainian cooperation, but it fell into trouble as relations between the two neighbours unravelled following Russia’s 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula.
It was developed by Ukraine’s Antonov company in the early 2000s. About 40 were built, most of them in Russia that manufactured the plane under licence.
Along with several commercial carriers, the An-148 was operated by the Russian defence ministry and several other government agencies. Ukraine’s president has used the plane for some of his trips.
But the plane’s production in Russia was halted last year because of low demand and media reports indicated that some carriers, including Saratov Airlines, were experiencing a shortage of spares. Some airlines reportedly had to cannibalise some of their planes to keep others airworthy.
Among the major problems, in March 2011 an An-148 crashed during a training flight in Russia, killing all six crew on board. Investigators blamed pilot error.
In 2010, another An-148 operated by a Russian carrier suffered a major failure of its control system but its crew managed to land safely.