Lokomotiv Yaroslavl plane crash
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev lays flowers near the wreckage of the aircraft
|Date||7 September 2011|
|Summary||Runway overrun and stall during takeoff due to applied braking; pilot error, improper pilot training|
|Site||Volga River bank, near Yaroslavl, Russia
|Aircraft type||Yakovlev Yak-42D|
|Flight origin||Tunoshna Airport, Yaroslavl Oblast, Russia|
|Destination||Minsk National Airport, Minsk, Belarus|
|Survivors||1 (2 initially)|
The Lokomotiv Yaroslavl plane crash occurred on 7 September 2011 when Yak-Service's Flight 9633, a Yakovlev Yak-42 charter flight carrying the players and coaching staff of the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl professional ice hockey team, crashed near the Russian city of Yaroslavl. The aircraft ran off the runway before lifting off, struck a tower mast, caught fire and crashed 1 km (0.62 mi) from the end of the runway of Tunoshna Airport on the Volga River bank. Of the 45 on board, 43 died at the crash site. One of the two rescued from the wreck, Alexander Galimov, died five days later in hospital. Crew member Alexander Sizov was the sole survivor.
Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, a member of the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL), Russia's top ice hockey league, was on its way to Minsk, Belarus, to start the 2011–12 season. All players from the main roster and four from the youth team were on board the aircraft. Because of the tragedy, Lokomotiv Yaroslavl chose to cancel its participation in the 2011–12 KHL season. The club instead participated in the 2011–12 season of the Russian Major League (VHL), the second-ranked ice hockey league in Russia after the KHL, starting in December 2011, and were eligible for the VHL playoffs. The KHL temporarily suspended its season-opening game already in progress and postponed the start of the season by five days.
Investigation of the crash focused on pilot error and technical failures. An investigative committee was set up which examined Yak-Service's records; conditions at the airport; the aircraft's wreckage; and flight recorder data. Simulations of the aircraft's takeoff were conducted to compare with recovered flight recorder data. Testing determined that pilot error was the cause as a braking force was found to have been applied by the chief pilot during the takeoff. The investigating committee released its report at a press conference on 2 November 2011. According to Alexei Morozov, chief of the investigative commission, "the immediate cause of the (...) crash was the (...) crew's erroneous actions, namely the pilot stepping on the brake pedals before raising the nose wheel because of the wrong position of [his] feet on the [pedals] during takeoff." It was later revealed that the pilot had used falsified documents to obtain permission to fly the aircraft, and that both officers lacked the training necessary to fly the Yak-42.
The aircraft, a Yakovlev Yak-42D, construction number 4520424305017, was first flown in 1993. After operations with several airlines, it joined the Yak-Service fleet, which was the operator of the aircraft when it crashed. Oleg Panteleyev, head of analytics at AviaPort, notes that the Yak-42 was designed with a 36-year service life, and this airframe, based upon the number of hours flown, and the number of takeoffs and landings, still had 60 percent of its service life remaining. According to Panteleyev, in civil aviation, there is no such thing as an "old aircraft" and that instead it is airworthiness which determines whether the aircraft is suitable to operate. According to Deputy Transport Minister Valery Okulov, one of the three engines on the aircraft had been replaced a month prior to the crash. The aircraft was due to be taken out of service at the end of 2011 for a scheduled major overhaul.
Weather conditions at Tunoshna Airport on 7 September 2011, were described as good, with a wind from 360° at 11 kilometres per hour (6.8 mph), a visibility of 10 kilometres (6.2 mi), with significant stratocumulus clouds at a lower limit of 990 metres (3,250 ft). The temperature was 17.8 °C (64.0 °F). The Yak-Service Yak-42D aircraft, piloted by Andrei Solontsev and co-pilot Sergei Zhuravlyov, entered Runway 05/23 at taxiway 5, 300 metres (980 ft) from the start of the runway. Runway 05/23 was 3,000 metres (9,800 ft) long, leaving 2,700 metres (8,900 ft) for take-off. After the aircraft was cleared for take-off it accelerated to an estimated 230 kilometres per hour (140 mph) but failed to lift off from the runway. The Yak-42 ran off past the end of the runway for a distance of 400 metres (1,300 ft) before it lifted off from the ground. From that point, it struck a beacon tower mast located about 450 metres (1,480 ft) from the end of the runway. It did not reach a flying altitude, never exceeding an estimated 6 metres (20 ft) from the ground.
After it struck the tower mast, the aircraft veered left and crashed on the riverbank of the Tunoshna River, 200 metres (660 ft) from where it joins the Volga River, losing its tail assembly on impact while the front part of the jet disintegrated. At the impact site, the tail section remained in the water, while the pieces of the fuselage were on dry land. The location of the wreckage was approximately 2 kilometres (1.2 mi) from the end of the runway.
Witness reports described the aircraft as "bursting into flames" after hitting the mast. The aircraft's direction changed after hitting the mast, described as "rolling to the left" and then it impacted the ground. Another witness report described that engines went silent moments before the crash. Another report indicated that the aircraft hit some trees before it crashed. A security surveillance camera mounted on the mast recorded the approach of the Yak-42 at high speed, running off the end of the runway, only metres above the ground, the nose pulling up moments before impacting the mast. Debris from the aircraft was found just past the mast site, continuing from that point to the crash site. The crew did not report any technical problems to the airport controllers.
In 2009, Yak-Service had been investigated by the European Commission, following airworthiness and air safety concerns. Russian authorities imposed restrictions on the carrier, and made Yak-Service subject to ramp inspections to international standards. In 2010, Yak-Service had been banned from making flights into European airspace. The Russian transport ministry on 18 May 2010, prohibited Yak-Service from flying into Europe. On 11 August 2010, the operating restrictions were removed by Russian authorities. The European Commission, however, was not satisfied that mandatory equipment was present on all Yak-Service aircraft, and banned two of the company's Yakovlev Yak-40s from operating in European airspace.
At the time of the crash, Lokomotiv Yaroslavl was one of the top ice hockey teams in Russia, originally established in 1959. The team won the Russian Open Championship in 1997, 2002 and 2003, and were finalists in 2008 and 2009, making it to the third round of the playoffs in four straight seasons. Lokomotiv lost in the 2010 KHL Western Conference Finals 4–3 to HC MVD, and lost in the 2011 KHL Western Conference Finals 4–2 to Atlant Moscow Oblast. Several players were about to make their debut with the team, including former National Hockey League (NHL) players Ruslan Salei, Pavol Demitra, and Kārlis Skrastiņš. Also set to make their coaching debuts were former NHL players Igor Korolev and Brad McCrimmon.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, who had been on his way to Yaroslavl for the Yaroslavl Global Policy Forum, sent his condolences to the families of those killed in the crash, and visited the crash site along with Governor of Yaroslavl Oblast Sergey Vakhrukov. René Fasel, president of the International Ice Hockey Federation, called the crash "the darkest day in the history of our sport." Manchester United chief executive David Gill wrote to the Russian side to offer support and sympathy after hearing of the tragedy, which bore unsettling similarities to the Munich air disaster which cost 23 United players, staff and journalists their lives in 1958. Yaroslavl announced a three-day period of mourning from Friday 9 September 2011 to Sunday 11 September 2011.
Upon hearing the news of the accident, KHL officials stopped and postponed the Salavat Yulaev Ufa–Atlant Moscow Oblast game already in progress. The game was suspended in the second period, and KHL president Alexander Medvedev addressed the audience at the game, informing them of the details of the tragedy. Medvedev promised "We will do our best to keep the high-level hockey in Yaroslavl." A minute of silence was held and the audience exited the arena. The two teams left to go to a nearby church. The following day in Minsk, at the arena where Yaroslavl was to play its first game of the season, a requiem Mass was celebrated to honor the dead. The KHL resumed its 2011–12 season on 12 September 2011, with seven games. All games were preceded with a minute of silence.
Early into New York Islanders training camp, goaltender Evgeni Nabokov, having played the previous season in the KHL, was deeply saddened by the news and was quoted as saying
"I think I knew 80 percent of the team. Either I played with them or I played against them. You see each other in different tournaments. Some of them you're really close with, or some them you just say hi and have a couple of laughs with. [...] It struck me when I found out. I was at breakfast and reading the Russian newspapers and all of a sudden, it popped up. It's almost like you don't want to believe something like that. It's tough. You have chills and you just hope that the families will find the strength to fight through something like that."
On Saturday, 10 September 2011, memorial services for the players were held in countries where the players came from. The biggest services which were held in Arena 2000, the home arena of Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, were attended by thousands of mourners as well as Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. Local police determined the crowd number at Lokomotiv's home arena to be roughly 100,000. Lokomotiv executives met to discuss the team's future. In the discussion, team president Yuri Yakovlev announced that Lokomotiv would not participate in the 2011–12 KHL season. In Sweden, over 10,000 relatives and fans of HV71 attended Kinnarps Arena, HV71's home arena, to mourn Swedish goaltender Stefan Liv who died in the crash. On 12 September 2011, after the death of Alexander Galimov, Lokomotiv Yaroslavl marketing manager Ivjiny Chuev said that another memorial, this time specifically for Galimov, would be held on 13 September 2011. The Dallas Stars, the team which Kārlis Skrastiņš played for the previous two seasons, honored their former teammate by placing a decal with Skrastiņš's number (37) on the helmets of their players. Josef Vašíček's former NHL team, the Carolina Hurricanes, wore a commemorative patch on their jerseys during the season. The Detroit Red Wings wore a patch on their 2011–2012 uniforms with the initials of Ruslan Salei, who had played for Detroit during the previous season. The patch the Red Wings wore also honored Brad McCrimmon, who had played for the team and been an assistant coach, and Stefan Liv, who was drafted by Detroit and played for their minor-league team. Furthermore, the Anaheim Ducks embroidered Salei's number (#24) on their jerseys for the season. The New Jersey Devils wore a commemorative patch on their jerseys honoring former Devils players Karel Rachunek and Alexander Vasyunov. The St. Louis Blues also held a memorial ceremony for former players Pavol Demitra and Igor Korolev before their 8 November game against the Chicago Blackhawks. The Blues players also wore a special '38' sticker on their helmets, as both players wore that number with the Blues. The St. Louis Blues goaltender, Jaroslav Halak also had his 2011–12 goaltending mask made with a tribute to his fellow Slovak Demitra on the backplate.
On 11 September 2011, President Medvedev ordered the grounding of all airlines "which are not adequately able to ensure passengers' safety." A deadline of 15 November 2011, was set to put into place "measures be developed to stop Russian air carriers' activities if they are not able to provide safe flights." Measures to bring aircraft up to international standards were to be sped up and the installation of new radio beacons to the latest COSPAS-SARSAT standard. On 21 September 2011, Yak-Service had its operating licence revoked by Rosaviatsiya after an audit of flight operations of the airline and as a result of the crash.
The first to commemorate a victim of the tragedy was Slovak Ice Hockey Federation, which, on 9 September announced that the jersey number 38 would be retired from the national team in memory of Pavol Demitra, who recently retired from the national team in May on home ice, at the World Championship Slovakia hosted for the first time and who would be the in memoriam inductee of the 2012 Class of Slovak Hockey Hall of Fame. Furthermore, it was announced that Team Slovakia would have a minor number 38 sawn into the jerseys up until 2012 World Championship. Demitra was further honoured by a public ceremony at a hockey stadium in Trenčín, which bears his name since late 2011 (Pavol Demitra Ice Stadium) along with an elementary school attended in Dubnica nad Váhom. Thanks to Demitra's popularity spontaneous gatherings also took place across Slovakia, by hockey stadiums, in his memory.
On 28 September 2011, the German Ice Hockey Federation announced that it would retire the No. 20 jersey of Robert Dietrich in Team Germany. 13 October 2011 game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals, which featured Russian ice hockey players Alexander Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin, was dedicated to Lokomotiv Yaroslavl. The teams wore commemorative Lokomotiv patches. All jerseys were autographed by the players and auctioned to raise funds for the families of those who died in the crash. On 12 March 2012, the Latvian Ice Hockey Federation announced that it would retire the No. 7 jersey of Kārlis Skrastiņš from Team Latvia. On 24 March 2012, the Dallas Stars (for whom Skrastiņš had played prior to signing with Lokomotiv) held a pre-game ceremony with Skrastiņš' family and announced a trust fund for Skrastiņš' children. Similarly, the Czech Ice Hockey Association decided to retire Czech Republic men's national ice hockey team jersey numbers in honor of its three late players. The numbers 4 of Karel Rachunek, 15 of Jan Marek, and 63 of Josef Vasicek have since been taken out of circulation.
The Interstate Aviation Committee (MAK), in accordance with Russian legislation, opened an investigation into the circumstances and causes of the accident. Russian aviation authorities suspended all flights with the aircraft type after the accident pending checks of other existing aircraft of the same type.
The flight recorders were recovered on 8 September 2011, according to Russian Minister of Transport Igor Levitin, and sent to Moscow for examination. The fuel supply used to refuel the aircraft was quarantined, and samples were taken for analysis to determine if substandard fuel was used. The Investigative Committee commented that pilot error and mechanical malfunction were considered the two most likely causes for the crash. The pilots were experienced but lacked experience on the Yak-42. The captain Andrei Solontsev had 6,900 hours of flight experience, but only 1,500 on Yak-42s; and the first officer Sergei Zhuravlyov had 15,000 hours' experience, although only 420 were on the Yak-42, according to Deputy Minister Okulov.
Conflicting opinions were given on the ability of the Yak-42 to take off with fewer than three engines operating. According to a report quoting the Federal Air Transport Agency, the aircraft can fly and land on two engines, but cannot take off with one engine not operating. According to Shavkat Umarov, head of the Tatar branch of Rosaviatsiya in Kazan, the Yak-42 can take off using two engines.
According to the Technical Commission of the MAK, preliminary analysis of the flight recorders indicated that the aircraft's trimmable horizontal stabilizer was set to 8.7 degrees "nose up" and its wing flaps were in the take-off position of 20 degrees. The engines were functioning until "collision with obstacles." According to Russia's aviation authority, the flight recorders gave no indication of sub-standard fuel. An analysis of the fuel in the fuel tanks at Tunoshna Airport showed that it met requirements for aviation fuel. After the crash, the airport ordered that no aircraft were to refuel there during the investigation.
The Technical Commission of the MAK released further findings on 12 September 2011. Among the findings:
- the engines continued working until the crash.
- the weather was ruled out as a cause of the crash.
- the crew carried out a check of all flight controls of the aircraft, including the elevator. The flight control surfaces responded as intended.
- take-off weight was less than the maximum allowable for take-off.A
- the aircraft had 14 tons of fuel on board, of which eight tons was from the airport in Yaroslavl.
- prior to the takeoff, the stabilizer and flaps were set to takeoff position.
The committee referred the study of the flight recorders and operational data to other research centers. The Technical Commission established contacts with the investigation authorities of the countries whose citizen were on board: Czech Republic, Germany, Slovakia, Sweden, Latvia and Canada.
On 14 September 2011, a report in the newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets, quoting a source in the aviation industry, claimed that the parking brake of the aircraft was on during the take-off, which significantly slowed it down and prevented it from accelerating properly. According to this theory, the captain had turned over control to the co-pilot before take-off, as he was not feeling well. As it is the captain's duty to release the brake, the co-pilot may not have been aware that it had not been done, or had forgotten to do so. LifeNews reported that investigators were investigating the pilots' professional history, and that the pilots did not have sufficient experience on the Yak-42.
On 15 September 2011, a report by RT stated that it was now believed that there was no evidence to show that the parking brake was engaged during the take off roll. RIA Novosti reported that Deputy Minister Okulov and Federal Air Transport Agency head Alexander Neradko both dismissed the theory in discussions with reporters at a press conference on 14 September 2011. The theory was also discounted by Konstantin Malinin, a former test pilot of the Yak-42, who noted that an engaged parking brake would have left skid marks and pieces of rubber on the runway, and there were none found.
Two simulations of the crash were planned to help determine the cause. A "virtual" simulation used flight simulators. The data from the crashed Yak-42's flight recorders was loaded into a simulator, which then reconstructed the crash. A "live" simulation attempted to duplicate conditions of the crash, using a similar Yak-42, which launched from Zhukovsky Airfield. The Gromov Flight Research Institute conducted the tests. The Institute previously assisted the IAC in the investigation of the crash in 2010 that killed the president of Poland, Lech Kaczyński.
On 17 September 2011, the MAK released further information about its investigation. It found the aircraft had started its takeoff with approximately 2,700 metres (8,900 ft) of usable runway length from its starting position. The aircraft started down the runway with engines at nominal thrust, with takeoff thrust not being applied until six seconds later. Despite the increase of thrust the aircraft did not accelerate as expected. The committee report speculated that this could have been due to some braking force, and the committee stated it would send the braking system components to a "specialized institution" for a special examination. The aircraft reached a maximum speed of 230 km/h (140 mph). It did not lift off the ground until some 400 metres (1,300 ft) after the end of the runway but at no point did it rise more than 5–6 metres (16–20 ft) off the ground. It then hit the airport beacon, deflected to the left and impacted the ground. The flaps and slats were in takeoff position, spoilers retracted, and the stabilizer set in a ten-degree position. The elevator controls were still connected.
- Captain: 74, 76.
- Flight engineer: 74, 76.
- Captain: Time, headlights. We are taking off, top speed 190.
- Captain: Three, four, five, nominal [engine thrust].
- Flight engineer: Nominal [thrust] on.
- Flight engineer: Speed is increasing. [Flight] parameters [are] normal. 130, 150, 170, 190, 210.
- Captain: [Switch to] takeoff [thrust].
- Flight engineer: 220, 230.
- Co-pilot: Maybe [it's] the stabilizer.
- Captain: Takeoff, takeoff [thrust]! Stabilizer!
- Co-pilot: What are you doing?
- Captain: Takeoff [thrust]!
- Flight engineer: Takeoff [thrust] on.
- Captain: /cursing/.
- Co-pilot: Andrey!
According to test pilot Anatoly Knishov, in an interview with Komsomolskaya Pravda, top speed 190 represents a decision point where, if failures occur before that speed, the aircraft is able to stop on the runway. At 210, the captain switched the engines to "takeoff mode" from "regular flight mode" or "nominal mode". According to Knishov, a nominal thrust/power mode is used for an empty aircraft, while all loaded aircraft use a takeoff mode. In his opinion, the switch-over from a nominal- to takeoff mode was late and unusual, as engine mode for taking off is normally agreed upon before starting a take-off run.
Life News reported on 20 September 2011 the opinion of test pilot Magomed Tolboev. According to Tolboev, the cause of the disaster might have been a disagreement between the aircraft commander and the copilot. From examining a 100-metre (330 ft)-long skid mark on the runway, Tolboev suggested that one of them tried to brake, while the other was trying to take off. Tolboev also considered the Yak-42 not as advanced in its build and materials as contemporary Western models, heavier and less fuel-efficient, but still a "reliable vehicle" with "best rigidity".
On Wednesday 21 September 2011, Rosaviatsiya formally revoked the operating license of Yak-Service as the result of the ongoing investigation.
On Friday 23 September 2011, Kyiv Post reported that the only survivor of the crash, flight engineer Sizov, was questioned by the investigative committee on 22 September 2011. According to Sizov, no problems were noted in the preparation for the flight, and the aircraft had no problems during its previous flight. Sizov also described the distribution of the passengers and luggage on the aircraft: Lokomotiv's coaches were in the front cabin; the players were in the rear cabin; and the luggage was carried in the rear luggage compartment. Kyiv Post also reported that a criminal investigation under Article 263 of the Criminal Code (flight safety violations causing two or more deaths) had commenced.
On 10 October 2011, the Gromov Institute began its series of test flights. The simulations applied braking forces at different stages of the takeoff to determine what effects if any, the forces affected the ability of the aircraft to reach a take-off angle and speed. The first flight created a baseline takeoff, without any braking force applied.
Simulation testing determined that pilot error was the cause as a braking force was found to have been applied by the chief pilot during takeoff. Using data from the flight recorder, it was determined the movement was only possible by pushing down on the brake pedals from the chief pilot's seat to push upwards on the control column. The investigating committee found evidence of the braking failure in the braking system.
The committee released its final report on 2 November 2011. The committee found several problems that led to the crash. The first was that Yak-Service "did not properly control the quality of mastering the aircraft", finding that the crew did not train long enough on the Yak-42. The second was that the crew "did not calculate the takeoff parameters", changing the takeoff thrust during takeoff. While it was not determined which pilot applied the brakes, it was determined that one applied acceleration at the same time as the other applied braking. The co-pilot Zhuravlyov was found to have a banned drug phenobarbital in his system.
Federal investigators revealed in September 2012, that the pilot and co-pilot had falsified documents stating that they had undergone the necessary training for the Yak-42. Vadim Timofeyev, deputy head of airline Yak-Service, was charged with breaching air safety rules. Timofeyev's trial lasted from December 2014 until September 2015. Timofeyev was found guilty on 23 September 2015 of violating Part 3 of Article 263 of the Russian Criminal Code, governing the safe operation of aircraft resulting in the manslaughter of more than two people. Timofeyev was sentenced to five years in prison, but his sentence was amnestied under the 2015 Russian amnesty on the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. Timofeyev had pled not guilty, blaming the crash on poorly placed cargo.
Passengers and crew
According to the Ministry of Emergency Situations, the aircraft manifest listed 8 crew members and 37 passengers as being on board. The only occupants found alive were team player Alexander Galimov and flight engineer Alexander Sizov. All 43 bodies were recovered from the scene.
According to eyewitnesses, both Galimov and Sizov were severely burned, but both were conscious when rescued at the scene. Both Galimov and Sizov were transported to Moscow for treatment. The two were placed in medically induced comas to relieve stress; however, Galimov died on 12 September at the Vishnevsky Institute of Surgery. Sizov was moved from intensive care to a ward on 12 September, and his life was considered to be out of danger. He was discharged from the hospital on 28 October, expecting to return to aviation but perhaps not to fly.
Hockey players who died
|Jan Marek||31||Czech Republic||C|
|Karel Rachůnek||32||Czech Republic||D|
|Josef Vašíček||30||Czech Republic||C|
- ^ A. These players had dual citizenship (Russian and Ukrainian although dual citizenship is not recognized in Ukraine)
- Yuri Urychev was injured and suspended at the time and was not originally scheduled to fly to the game, but he volunteered to go to support the team even though he was not able to play. Forward Maxim Zyuzyakin, 20, was left behind in Yaroslavl.
- Source: NHL.com
Among the team staff on board were
|Alexander Karpovtsev||41||Russia||Assistant Coach|
|Igor Korolev[A]||41||Russia/Canada||Assistant Coach|
|Brad McCrimmon||52||Canada||Head Coach|
- ^ A. Korolev became a naturalized Canadian citizen in 2000 but had dual Russian and Canadian citizenship.
- Goalkeeper coach Jorma Valtonen was not on the aircraft as he stayed behind to work with the junior team.
In popular culture
In 2013, the Canadian documentary series Mayday (also known as Air Disasters, Air Emergency and Air Crash Investigation) aired an episode in Season 12, titled "Lokomotiv Hockey Team Disaster", which documents the crash.
- ^A No weight scales were available at the airport to assess the actual baggage weight. Therefore, the Charter Airline estimated the total gross weight of the aircraft, which they determined was well under the limit. However, following the complete investigation, it was determined that the aircraft was actually overweight. This was a key factor for the excessive takeoff roll.
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