The plane crash highlights the Russian security deficit, regional problems Aviation News


A plane crash on the Kamchatka Peninsula in Russia symbolizes the deterioration of the country’s air safety record and a much bigger problem in its gigantic Far East region facing depopulation despite its mineral riches, according to experts.

The 22 passengers and six crew aboard the An-28 plane, including two children, died after the plane crashed into a rock overlooking the Okhotsk Sea northwest of Kamchatka Peninsula. peaceful volcano of Russia, a cloudy and cloudy Tuesday. late.

Most of the bodies have been fished out of the icy waters.

Rescue workers continue to comb the area of ​​about 20 square kilometers (about 8 square miles) in search of debris and the flight record of the plane, the Ministry of Emergencies said.

There are no official conclusions on what caused Tuesday’s crash, but Russian prosecutors say possible causes could include a pilot error, bad weather or a technical error.

The incident points to a bigger problem for small Russian airlines operating aircraft from previous decades and in need of better equipment, such as instrument landing systems, to ensure flight accuracy, experts told Al Jazeera.

Newer equipment would increase the usability of each airport in the event of bad weather, something known to aviation as “weather minimums.”

“This will give the opportunity to increase meteorological minimums, when safe take-offs and landings are possible,” Oleg Panteleyev, a Moscow-based expert at Infomost Consulting, told Al Jazeera.

Russia also has one of the worst security records in the world.

According to a 2018 report by the Interstate Aviation Committee, a group that oversees air safety standards in Soviet states, pilots’ mistakes cause 75 percent of plane crashes and other accidents in Russia and other states of the USSR.

Some of the most recent fatal accidents in Russia include December 2016 tragedy, which saw a military plane crash into the Black Sea after taking off from Sochi International Airport and killed 92 people, including 64 members of the army choir heading to Syria to act in the Russian troops.

In November 2013, a Boeing-737 owned by the Russian company Tatarstan crashed in the city of Kazan in the Volga region, killing 50 passengers and crew.

In April 2010, 96 people aboard a Polish Tupolev-154 Air Force plane carrying the president and senior Polish officials were killed in an accident near the western city of Smolensk.

“There is a big clash with corpses reliably every year,” said Mikhail Barabanov, an analyst at the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies, a Moscow-based think tank, in a Facebook post in 2019, shortly. after an emergency landing of an Aeroflot SSJ-100 aircraft in Moscow killed 41.

A dying region

In Kamchatka, planes are the only reliable way to move around the region, a UK peninsula with only 320,000 inhabitants.

The mountainous terrain of Kamchatka, the numerous rivers and the Siberian climate make it impossible to build paved roads.

“There are no roads or land [transport] infrastructure as such is minimal only in coastal areas, “Moscow air security expert Roman Gusarov told Al Jazeera.

“That’s why they operate small regional aircraft, mostly with turboprop engines, that are able to land at small airports with runway departures,” he said.

These airlines are vital to Russia, the world’s largest nation by land, where permafrost and enormous distances make roads unreliable and impassable.

Kamchatka exemplifies these typically Russian conditions and the reason why the eastern part of the nation, at 143 million, is facing catastrophic depopulation.

“In principle there are no roads” in the north of the peninsula, said Natalia Sushko, a native of Kamchatka.

She was born in the south of the peninsula 62 years ago, but left her for the “continent,” as mainland Russia is called in 2013.

“Kamchatka is unimaginably beautiful, but it is. Summer lasts two or three months, but the rest of the year is rain, humidity, cold, winds and windstorms, ”said Sushko, who now lives in a Moscow suburb.

Its exit is part of a massive exodus from Kamchatka and the rest of the Far East of Russia, a gargantuan stretch of Northeast Asia that borders Alaska, China, North Korea and Japan and comprises two-fifths. parts of the territory of Russia.

That’s a little more than all of Australia, but the region’s population is only 8.2 million. And that’s 20% less than before the Soviet collapse.

Despite promises of free land and other benefits, people are still leaving the region en masse, and by 2050, there could be fewer than four million people living there, demographers predict.

Planes and helicopters of all kinds played a key role in the Soviet Union’s effort to develop the resource-rich region.

Communist Moscow developed an aviation network that would transport people, food, drugs, medical equipment, and even hay.

“We were flying hay to the far north so the children could drink milk,” Vitali Shelkovnikov, who heads the Moscow-based flight safety consulting agency, told Al Jazeera.

The cows that ate the hay were blind due to Arctic nights for months, but their milk was still good for the children, he said.

Official answer

Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed his condolences to the bereaved families, and the regional governor pledged financial compensation of up to $ 5,000.

“We will do everything to help [you] survive this tragedy, “Vladimir Solodov told the families of the victims in the city of Palana.

Some locals, however, believe the tragedy could have been avoided, because a similar plane crashed into the same rock nine years ago.

In 2012, another An-28 with 14 people on board collided with the Pyatibratka rock (of the five brothers). Only four passengers survived, and an orthodox wooden cross with the names of the dead marks the site of the collision.

The locals pledged to blow up the rock or change the route of the planes landing in Palana. Aviation officials supported the idea, the local Kamchatka Info publication reported.

But authorities did not respond. “They didn’t even care to respond,” a local resident told Al Jazeera on condition of anonymity.

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