1963 Aeroflot Tupolev Tu-124 Neva river ditching
A Tu-124 similar to the accident aircraft
|Date||21 August 1963|
|Summary||Fuel exhaustion due to pilot and maintenance error|
|Site||Neva river, Leningrad, Soviet Union
|Aircraft type||Tupolev Tu-124|
|Flight origin||Tallinn-Ülemiste Airport, Estonia|
|Destination||Moskva-Vnukovo Airport, Russia|
The 1963 Aeroflot Tupolev Tu-124 Neva river ditching was a water landing that occurred in the Soviet Union in 1963. A Tupolev Tu-124 of Soviet state airline Aeroflot (Moscow division) took off from Tallinn-Ülemiste Airport (TLL) at 08:55 on 21 August 1963 with 45 passengers and 7 crew on board. The aircraft (registration number SSSR-45021) was built in 1962 and was scheduled to fly to Moscow-Vnukovo (VKO) under the command of 27-year-old captain Victor Mostovoy. After liftoff it appeared the nose gear undercarriage did not retract. Ground control diverted the flight to Leningrad (LED) – because of fog at Tallinn – at low altitude.
At 10:00 the aircraft started to circle the city at 1,650 feet (500 m), in order to expend fuel, reducing weight and decreasing the risk of fire in the event of a forced landing. The ground services at Pulkovo Airport (LED) were preparing the dirt runway for the forced landing. Each loop in the airspace around the city took the aircraft approximately 15 minutes. During this time the crew attempted to force the nose gear to lock into the fully extended position by pushing it with a pole taken from the cloak closet.
The eighth and last loop had begun at 12:10 when, 13 miles from the airport, the no. 1 engine was starved of fuel and ceased to function. The remaining engine ceased shortly thereafter, with the aircraft above the city center, moving east over St. Isaac's Cathedral and the Admiralty. Upon loss of power to both engines, it occurred to the flight crew that the only hope was to ditch the craft in the 300-metre (980 ft) wide Neva River.
Eyewitnesses saw the airplane descend upstream along the river. Immediately after the turn, the craft glided over the high steel structures of the Bolsheokhtinsky Bridge with approximately 100 feet (30 m) of clearance. Tu-124 flew just over the Alexander Nevsky Bridge – under construction at the time – barely missing it. The pilot managed to ditch the aircraft onto the river surface, in close proximity to an 1898-built steam tugboat.
The plane began to flood. The tugboat's captain then broke the aircraft's windshield to tie a cable to the cockpit's control wheel and proceeded to tow the craft to the river bank. During the tow all passengers remained on board. Passengers and crew then evacuated the cabin via an access hatch on the plane's roof.
- Soviet Transports Team. "Soviet Transports Database". Scramble. Retrieved 19 January 2009. "C/n 2350701 ... rgd 11oct62"
- "Воздушные гонки в Питере... 1:1 [RC Форум]" (in Russian). forum.rcdesign.ru. Archived from the original on 27 September 2007. "... circle the city at 1650 feet. ... aircraft was towed ashore."
- "Pilot saves lives by landing on a river… in 1963". Russia Today TV. 16 January 2009. Retrieved 29 March 2011.
- "Prepare to Ditch", in Flight International magazine, 13 August 1964, p241
- "Soviet Transports" series, also Ditch or crash-land? B.W. Townshend, 1965 (pp 47–49)
- Accident description at the Aviation Safety Network