Russian airline UTair has pulled its ATR 72-200s from service after a weekend crash that killed 31 people and injured 12. The airline said the move was an attempt to reassure passengers. The aircraft will be replaced with ATR 72-500s, newer versions of the same aircraft. Despite the grounding, the airline insists there was nothing technically wrong with the crash plane. The crash is one of a series of serious airliner crashes in Russia of late, which goes against the worldwide trend to greater safety in air travel. Russia’s poorer-than-average record has been blamed on antiquated aircraft but the plane involved is a relatively modern French twin turboprop with a good safety record.
A spate of crashes, including one that killed most of the members of a popular elite hockey team in September, has prompted Russian authorities to call for a wholesale revamp of the equipment its airlines fly. But UTair is an exception to the Russian stereotype and flies mostly modern American, Canadian and European designs. In addition to the ATRs it has 737s, four 757s and CRJs in its fleet. It does have 21 Tu-154s and some other Russian legacy aircraft (including 43 An-2 radial engine singles) in service but is also a launch customer for Sukhoi’s new Superjet 100, with 24 on order.