2016 Russian Defence Ministry Tupolev Tu-154 crash

Coordinates: 43°25′30″N 39°50′13″E / 43.42500°N 39.83694°E / 43.42500; 39.83694
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2016 Russian Defence Ministry Tupolev Tu-154 crash
Tupolev Tu-154B-2 (RA-85572) on final approach at Chkalovsky Airport.jpg
RA-85572, the aircraft involved, in May 2016
Date25 December 2016 (2016-12-25)
SummaryLoss of control at night, spatial disorientation
SiteBlack Sea, approx 1.5 km (0.93 mi) off the coast from Sochi, Russia
43°25′30″N 39°50′13″E / 43.42500°N 39.83694°E / 43.42500; 39.83694
Aircraft typeTupolev Tu-154B-2
OperatorRussian Air Force
Flight originChkalovsky Airport, Russia
StopoverSochi International Airport, Sochi, Russia
DestinationKhmeimim Air Base, Latakia, Syria

On 25 December 2016, a Tupolev Tu-154 jetliner of the Russian Defence Ministry crashed into the Black Sea shortly after taking off from Sochi International Airport, Russia, while en route to Khmeimim Air Base, Syria. All 92 passengers and crew on board, including 64 members of the Alexandrov Ensemble choir of the Russian Armed Forces, were killed. The aircraft had flown from Chkalovsky Airport and had landed at Sochi to refuel.


The aircraft involved was a Tupolev 154B-2,[1] tail number RA-85572, msn 83A-572,[1] which had been in operation since 1983,[2][3] and had flown for about 7,000 hours before the crash.[1][4]


2016 Russian Defence Ministry Tupolev Tu-154 crash is located in European Russia
2016 Russian Defence Ministry Tupolev Tu-154 crash
Accident site within the western part of Russia

The Tupolev had taken off at 05:27 local time (02:27, 25 December 2016 (UTC) (2016-12-25T02:27UTC)) from the Black Sea resort city of Sochi, Russia, where it had landed to refuel, bound for Syria.[5] Two minutes after takeoff, the aircraft crashed into the Black Sea, 1.5 kilometres (0.9 mi) from the coast. Wreckage was found at a depth of 50 to 70 metres (160 to 230 ft).[6][7] All 92 people on board were killed.[1]

Passengers and crew[edit]

Of the 92 passengers and crew on board, 64 were members of the Alexandrov Ensemble choir, the official choir of the Russian Armed Forces, including its director Valery Khalilov.[6] The members of the Ensemble were travelling from Moscow to the Russian military base at Khmeimim near Latakia, Syria, to take part in New Year celebrations.[8]

Among the passengers was Russian humanitarian worker Elizaveta Glinka,[9] the Director of the Department of Culture for the Russian Ministry of Defence Anton Gubankov,[10] seven soldiers (besides Khalilov), nine journalists (three each from Channel One Russia, NTV, and Zvezda), and two civilian officials.[citation needed]


Map of crash site released by the Russian Ministry of Defence

Immediately after the crash, the Investigative Committee of Russia launched a criminal case to probe the cause.[citation needed]

By 27 December, the cockpit voice and flight data recorders had been located, and both were later recovered and sent to Moscow for analysis.[11][12][13] By 28 December, the bodies of 18 people had been recovered from the sea.[14] On 29 December, a third recorder, which backs up data from the CVR and FDR, was found, which, despite being damaged, revealed more information.[13]

One Russian official downplayed the possibility of a terrorist attack as the cause of the crash, focusing more on the possibility of mechanical or human error.[15]

A bright flash was purportedly caught on surveillance cameras along the Sochi coastline before the crash.[16] Witnesses told reporters the plane appeared to experience trouble in gaining altitude, turned 180 degrees, started descending and crashed into the sea.[17][18]

On 27 December it was reported that an investigative source had told the Interfax news agency that Russian investigators believed a fault with the aircraft flaps had caused the crash. The Life.ru news portal was reported to have obtained a recording of the last words of one of the pilots: "Commander, we are going down." There was no official confirmation.[19][20]

On 29 December it was announced by the Flight Safety Service of the Russian Ministry that a preliminary analysis of data from the cockpit voice recorder showed that no explosion had occurred on board.[21]

On 16 January the Interstate Aviation Committee, the civil authority in aviation accident investigation, announced that its representative would participate in the investigation.[22]

On 19 January Interfax reported that, during the underwater search, remains had also been found of a Soviet Douglas A-20 Havoc/DB-7 Boston bomber, supplied from the U.S. through the Lend-Lease agreement, which crashed on 15 November 1942.[23]

On 31 May 2017, Russia's Kommersant said all the evidence pointed to the pilot, Maj Roman Volkov having suffered from somatogravic illusion. Analysis of the flight data suggested that the pilot had "lost his bearings and ignored his instruments, believing that the jet was climbing too sharply." Fatigue was thought to be a factor. Experts said that he was already feeling unwell on the ground and had trouble getting the plane on to the correct runway; he could not understand which of the two runways he was to take off from and which way to taxi. An escort vehicle was deployed to get him to the correct runway.[24][25][26]


Russia observed a national day of mourning on 26 December, at the declaration of President Vladimir Putin.[27][28] Russian Defence Minister Sergey Shoigu ordered that the Moscow Military Music College be given the honorific Valery Khalilov.[29]

On 28 December, French satirical weekly magazine Charlie Hebdo published several cartoons mocking the tragedy.[30] In response, a Russian Defense Ministry spokesman said: "If such, I dare say, 'artistry' is the real manifestation of 'Western values', then those who hold and support them are doomed".[31]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d "Accident description". Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved 25 December 2016.
  2. ^ "Туполев Ту-154Б-2" [Tupolev Tu-154B-2] (in Russian). Russianplanes.net.
  3. ^ Fedorov, Gleb (25 December 2016). "Monday declared day of mourning following Tu-154 crash near Sochi". Russia Beyond The Headlines. Retrieved 25 December 2016.
  4. ^ "All 92 on Syria-bound Russian military jet killed in crash, including 60 from Red Army Choir". Reuters. 25 December 2016.
  5. ^ "Russian military plane with 91 on board crashes over Black Sea". ITV. Archived from the original on 25 December 2016. Retrieved 25 December 2016.
  6. ^ a b "Russian military plane crashes in Black Sea near Sochi". BBC News. 25 December 2016. Retrieved 25 December 2016.
  7. ^ Farrer, Martin (25 December 2016). "Russian military plane missing in Black Sea with up to 100 on board". The Guardian. Retrieved 25 December 2016.
  8. ^ "Russia focusing on pilot error or technical issues rather than terrorism in plane crash". The Washington Post. 26 December 2016. Retrieved 26 December 2016.
  9. ^ "'Dr. Liza' dies in Russian plane crash". Barre Montpelier Times Argus. Archived from the original on 26 December 2016. Retrieved 25 December 2016.
  10. ^ "Putin declares national day of mourning over Russia military plane crash". The Straits Times. 25 December 2016. Retrieved 25 December 2016. Other passengers named were the head of the military band, Valery Khalilov, and the head of the defence ministry's department of culture, Anton Gubankov, said RT.
  11. ^ "Russian plane crash: Black box found in wreckage". Sky News. Retrieved 27 December 2016.
  12. ^ "Russian plane crash: Experts begin examining flight recorder". BBC. 27 December 2016. Retrieved 27 December 2016.
  13. ^ a b "Third flight data recorder of Tu-154 plane destroyed – source". TASS. Retrieved 29 December 2016.
  14. ^ "В Черном море нашли тела еще трех погибших при крушении Ту-154" [Rescuers find three more bodies from Tu-154 disaster in the Black Sea]. РИА Новости (in Russian). Retrieved 26 December 2016.
  15. ^ "Terror attack possible cause of Russian plane crash, investigators say". The Irish Independent. Retrieved 26 December 2016.
  16. ^ "(VIDEO) OVO JE TRENUTAK KADA JE AVION PAO U MORE: Od eksplozije noć se pretvorila u dan!" (in Croatian). Kurir, Serbia. Archived from the original on 26 December 2016. Retrieved 25 December 2016.
  17. ^ Павлов, Александр; Тихонов, Дмитрий; Тихонов, Дмитрий; Шевченко, Ксения; Шевченко, Ксения (25 December 2016). "Катастрофа Ту-154 Минобороны России в Черном море" [Catastrophe Defense Ministry Russian Tu-154 in the Black Sea] (in Russian). ommersant.ru. Retrieved 27 December 2016 – via Kommersant.
  18. ^ "Chyba zkušených pilotů? Rusové našli první černou skříňku, při zkoumání pádu letadla ale stále tápou" [Error experienced pilots? The Russians found the first black box, when examining the plane crash but still grope] (in Czech). zpravy.aktualne.cz. 27 December 2016. Retrieved 27 December 2016.
  19. ^ "Wing flap fault main theory behind Black Sea Russian jet crash". Reuters. 27 December 2016. Retrieved 28 December 2016.
  20. ^ Sridharan, Vasudevan (28 December 2016). "'The flaps, damn it,' Russian pilot's last words before Tu-154 plunged into Black Sea". International Business Times. Retrieved 28 December 2016.
  21. ^ "Defense Ministry: Terror attack possibility in Tu-154 crash not discarded". TASS. Retrieved 29 December 2016.
  22. ^ "TU-154B-2 RA-85572 25.12.2016 investigation". Retrieved 16 January 2017.
  23. ^ "Американский бомбардировщик времен войны найден под Сочи в ходе поисков Ту-154". Retrieved 19 January 2017.
  24. ^ "Управляемая катастрофа" [Managed catastrophe] (in Russian). 31 May 2017. The Commission fully confirmed as set out in the "b" version of another January 9 that managing their pilot lost orientation in space, hitting the power of the so-called somatogravic illusions.
  25. ^ "Russia Black Sea air crash: Pilot error blamed". BBC News. 1 June 2017.
  26. ^ "Deadly TU-154 Christmas Day Plane Crash Caused by Human Error, Says Russian Defence Ministry". The Moscow Times. June 2017. Retrieved 1 September 2017.
  27. ^ Blau, Max (25 December 2016). "Russian plane crash: No sign of survivors". CNN. Retrieved 25 December 2016.
  28. ^ "Russia Observes Day of Mourning for Crash Victims". The New York Times. Reuters, Associated Press. 26 December 2016. Retrieved 28 December 2016.
  29. ^ Ruptly (26 December 2016), Russia: Moscow Military Music College to be renamed after Alexandrov Ensemble director
  30. ^ "French Satirists at Charlie Hebdo Infuriate Russians With Mockery of Dec. 25 Plane Crash". The Moscow Times. 28 December 2016.
  31. ^ "Charlie Hebdo Cover: Russia Angered By Cartoon Of Tu-154 Plane Crash". International Business Times. 28 December 2016.