Metrojet Flight 9268 crash latest in long line of Russian aviation disasters

The crash of Metrojet Flight 9268 over Egypt on Saturday is the latest in a long history of Russian commercial airline tragedies. Here's a look back at some of the country's worst crashes.

Air accident rate in Russia and former Soviet republics nearly 3 times the global average

Mourners light candles in an Orthodox church in St. Petersburg, Russia, during a day of national mourning for the crash victims of Metrojet Flight 9268. Saturday's tragedy is the latest in a long history of Russian aviation disasters. (Dmitry Lovetsky/Associated Press)

The crash of Metrojet Flight 9268 over Egypt on Saturday is the latest in a long history of Russian commercial aviation tragedies. 

Saturday's crash, in which an Airbus A321-200 broke apart in mid-air, killing all 224 people on board, is the worst Russian aviation disaster in history. 

And it comes after years of promises by the Russian government to improve air safety standards, which have repeatedly come under scrutiny due to a number of high-profile crashes over the last several decades.

With 360 accidents and 7,298 fatalities since 1945, Russia is second only to the U.S. for fatal civil airliner disasters, according to the Aviation Safety Network

In June 2011, the International Air Transport Association, a trade association representing airlines around the world, praised Russia for the progress it had made in recent years to improve flight safety, noting the 13 largest Russian carriers have all passed IATA's operational safety audit.  

But it also warned that "safety concerns remain with the continued operation of some Russian-built equipment that does not comply with ICAO [International Civil Aviation Organization] standards."

In fact, the IATA says Russia and the former Soviet republics combined have the world's worst air-traffic safety records, with a total accident rate almost three times the world average in 2011.

Here's a look back at some of the country's worst crashes.

Aeroflot Flight 821

On Sept.14, 2008, an Aeroflot Boeing 737-500 crashed as it was preparing to land in central Russia, killing all 88 people aboard.

The jet had been travelling from Moscow to the Ural Mountains city of Perm when it went down near residential buildings. 

People light candles at a temporary memorial at the Boeing crash site at the Trans-Siberian railway on the outskirts of the Ural Mountain city of Perm, Russia, on Sept. 16, 2008. (Dmitry Lovetsky/Associated Press)

Russia's airline investigator, the Interstate Aviation Committee, blamed the pilot for the tragedy, saying he was tired, confused and intoxicated. 

The committee's final report said Flight 821's captain "lost spatial orientation" after he misread an altitude indicator on the Boeing's instrument panel. It also said an unspecified amount of alcohol was detected in the pilot's body, and that he was overworked.

RusAir Tu-134

Alcohol and crew negligence were also blamed when a RusAir  jet crashed in heavy fog and burst into flames on a highway in northwestern Russia on June 20, 2011, killing 44 people.

Eight people survived, dragged from the burning wreckage by locals.

Forensic experts examine a body near the wreckage of a Tu-134 plane belonging to RusAir near Petrozavodsk on June 21, 2011. (Timur Khanov, Komsomolskaya Pravda/The Associated Press)

The RusAir Tu-134 plane had taken off from Moscow and was moments from landing at the Petrozavodsk airport when it slammed into a nearby highway just before midnight.

An investigation found the aircraft's crew descended below minimum safe altitude in poor weather. What's more, the navigator, tasked with helping the the pilot align the aircraft with the runway, was "mildly intoxicated."

Lokomotiv Yaroslavl

Human error is also to blame for a 2011 crash that wiped out a Russian hockey team.

On Sept. 7, 2011, a Russian Yak-42 jet carrying the Kontinental Hockey League's Lokomotiv Yaroslavl team crashed, killing 43 of 45 people on board, including Canadian coach Brad McCrimmon and former Vancouver Canucks star Pavol Demitra.

"This is the darkest day in the history of our sport," Rene Fasel, president of the International Ice Hockey Federation, said at the time. 

An investigation determined the flight's crew were ill-trained and the crash was caused by the pilot accelerating using engine thrust while inadvertently applying the brakes. 

A year later, a Kremlin investigation revealed the pilot had only been granted permission to fly based on forged documents and that the co-pilot had not finished his requalification exam.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin lays flowers during a memorial ceremony for the victims of the Russian plane crash that killed 43 people, including 36 players, coaches and staff of the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl ice hockey team. (Alexei Nikolsky/Associated Press)

UTair Flight 120

On April 2, 2012, a UTair passenger plane departed from the Tyumen without having been properly de-iced, then crashed in a snowy field in Siberia shortly after taking off, killing 31 of the 43 people on board. 

Emergency service workers investigate the wreckage of the UTair airlines passenger plane that crashed near the Siberian city of Tyumen April 2, 2012. (Sergei Drachev/Reuters)

An investigation into the crash outlined a number of deficiencies in UTair's safety standards and and training practices, but pegged the blame on the crew's failure to have ice and snow removed from the aircraft, which tilted to the right and and then sharply to the left as it crashed in near-freezing temperatures.

Tatarstan Airlines Flight 363

A Boeing 737 belonging to Tatarstan Airlines crashed on Nov. 17, 2013, while trying to land at the airport in the city of Kazan, killing all 50 people aboard.

Reports said the plane appeared to lose altitude as it was making a second landing attempt, crashing and catching fire. 

Video captures plane crash

8 years ago
Duration 1:10
Tatarstan Airlines jet crashes at an almost vertical angle in Kazan, Russia. Video courtesy Emergencies Ministry/Russian Investigative Committee 1:10

A combination of pilot error and mechanical failure was blamed for the crash.

With files from Reuters and The Associated Press


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