Russia’s Prosecutor General: “Poor state of Russia’s aviation caused Superjet disaster”

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The recent catastrophic crash-landing of a Sukhoi Superjet-100 at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport was a result of the poor state of Russia’s aviation industry, with pilots lacking qualification and outdated safety regulations, the country’s Prosecutor General said.

Since 2017, 550 commercial pilots were suspended and 160 flight certificates annulled in the country after prosecutorial inspections, Yury Chaika told MPs, as he appeared before parliament on Wednesday.

“The issue of dedicated training of pilots still remains a pressing one,” he warned. Many aviation training centers lack qualified teachers and hardware to operate effectively. Two such centers could not properly train pilots and had to be shut own. There were also cases of aviators taking to the skies after incomplete training programs, the Prosecutor General said.

The state aviation safety program hasn’t been updated in Russia since 2008 and doesn’t meet the international requirements anymore, he pointed out. There’s also no one in government specifically tasked with overseeing this program and how it’s being implemented.

Chaika also blasted the Transport Ministry for its continued inability to draw up and ratify the necessary legal acts on the certification of aircraft, its manufacturers and the training of aviation personnel.

The Prosecutor General’s office has revealed that more than 400 commercial planes were modified by carriers without proper research work or certification. This became possible because federal air transport agency, Rosaviatsia, often acts too heavy-handedly as it regulates what the carriers are doing, he said.

The tragic incident with the Sukhoi Superjet-100 that Chaika was referring to occurred in Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport on May 5. The Aeroflot plane was hit by a lightning shortly after takeoff, being forced to return to the airport for an emergency landing with its engine burning. The aircraft bounced off the runway and hit the ground. This led to its tail section catching fire; in resulting tragedy, 41 of the 78 people on board were killed.

Earlier on Tuesday, the governor of Khabarovsk Region – where the Superjets are made – said that human factor was the reason for the failed crash-landing.

All systems on the plane, including the engines, remained operational as it was returning to the airfield, he said, citing the conclusions of the Rosaviatsia probe. It was the pilots who committed several mistakes during the landing, be it due to lack of experience or stress. One of them was approaching the runway at a wrong angle and with excessive speed, according to the governor.

Aeroflot denied the governor’s claims, calling them “a blatant attempt to apply pressure on the investigation.”

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