Crew Error Blamed In Russian Crash

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One of the pilots in a Yak-42 that crashed during takeoff in September, killing 44 people, apparently was pushing hard on a brake pedal while pulling up on the yoke, investigators said on Wednesday. The three-engine jet had been chartered by a hockey team heading to Minsk for their season opener. "The take-off speed decision by the pilot -- 190 km/h -- was 20 km/h less than that required for the actual takeoff weight of 54 tons and nominal power regime of the engines," MAK technical commission chairman Alexey Morozov told a news conference in Moscow. It could not be determined which of the pilots was pressing on the brake.

At least four causes contributed to the crash, Morozov said: a lack of pilot training, the pilots' failure to follow standard takeoff procedures, poor coordination between the pilots during the takeoff, and inadequate oversight of the crew's pre-flight preparation. Also, both pilots were impaired, according to investigators. One had traces of a sedative drug in his blood and the other had been diagnosed with a motor-skill debilitating disease. Investigators also found "serious flaws" in the crew's training, according to The New York Times, with "long pauses" between simulator sessions. The airplane lifted off briefly before it crashed to the ground about 500 yards from the runway, broke apart, and caught fire. The flight engineer was the sole survivor of the crash.