Aeroflot Flight 593
F-OGQS, the aircraft involved in the accident, at Charles de Gaulle Airport in 1993
|Date||23 March 1994|
|Summary||Pilot error, untrained minor in command of controls|
|Site||20 km (12 mi) E of Mezhdurechensk, Russia |
|Aircraft type||Airbus A310-304|
|Operator||Aeroflot – Russian International Airlines|
|Flight origin||Sheremetyevo International Airport, Moscow, Russia|
|Destination||Kai Tak Airport, Hong Kong|
Aeroflot Flight 593 was a regular passenger flight from Sheremetyevo International Airport, Moscow, to Kai Tak Airport in Hong Kong. On 23 March 1994, the aircraft operating the route, an Airbus A310-304 flown by Aeroflot – Russian International Airlines, crashed into a mountain range in Kemerovo Oblast, Russia, killing all 63 passengers and 12 crew members on board.
No evidence of a technical malfunction was found. Cockpit voice and flight data recorders revealed the presence of the relief pilot's 12-year-old daughter and 16-year-old son on the flight deck. While seated at the controls, the pilot's son had unknowingly disengaged the A310's autopilot control of the aircraft's ailerons. The autopilot then disengaged completely causing the aircraft to roll into a steep bank and a near-vertical dive. Despite managing to level the aircraft, the first officer over-corrected when pulling up, causing the plane to stall and enter into a corkscrew dive; the pilots managed to level the aircraft off once more, but by then the plane had lost too much altitude to recover and crashed into the Kuznetsk Alatau mountain range.
The aircraft involved in the accident was a leased Airbus A310-304, registration F-OGQS, serial number 596, that was delivered new to Aeroflot on 11 December 1992. Powered with two General Electric CF6-80C2A2 engines, the airframe had its maiden flight as F-WWCS on 11 September 1991, and was one of five operating for Russian Airlines, an autonomous division of Aeroflot – Russian International Airlines that was set up for serving routes to the Russian Far East and Southeast Asia. On average, the crew of three operating the aircraft had logged 900 hours on the type.
The captain of Flight 593 was Andrey Viktorovich Danilov, 40, who was hired by Aeroflot in November 1992. He had accrued over 9,675 hours of flight time, including 950 hours in the A310, of which 895 hours were as captain. The first officer was Igor Vasilyevich Piskaryov, 33, hired by Aeroflot in October 1993, who had 5,885 hours of flight time, including 440 hours in the A310. The relief pilot was Yaroslav Vladimirovich Kudrinsky, 39, who was hired by Aeroflot in November 1992; he had over 8,940 flying hours, including 907 hours in the A310. Kudrinsky also had experience in the Yakovlev Yak-40, Antonov An-12, and Ilyushin Il-76. There were nine flight attendants on board the plane.
On 23 March 1994, the jet aircraft was en route from Sheremetyevo International Airport in Moscow to Kai Tak Airport in Hong Kong with 75 occupants aboard, of whom 63 were passengers. Most of the passengers were businessmen from Hong Kong and Taiwan who were looking for economic opportunities in Russia.
Relief pilot Kudrinsky was taking his two children on their first international flight, and they were brought to the cockpit while he was on duty. Five people were thus on the flight deck: Kudrinsky, co-pilot Piskaryov, Kudrinsky's children Eldar and Yana, and another pilot, Vladimir Makarov, who was flying as a passenger.
With the autopilot active, Kudrinsky, against regulations, let the children sit at the controls. First, his daughter Yana took the pilot's left front seat. Kudrinsky adjusted the autopilot's heading to give her the impression that she was turning the plane, though she actually had no control of the aircraft. Shortly thereafter, Kudrinsky's son Eldar occupied the pilot's seat. Unlike his sister, Eldar applied enough force to the control column to contradict the autopilot for 30 seconds. This caused the flight computer to switch the plane's ailerons to manual control while maintaining control over the other flight systems. A silent indicator light came on to alert the pilots to this partial disengagement. The pilots, who had previously flown Russian-designed planes which had audible warning signals, apparently failed to notice it.
Eldar was the first to notice a problem, when he observed that the plane was banking right. Shortly after, the flight path indicator changed to show the new flight path of the aircraft as it turned. Since the turn was continuous, the resulting predicted flight path drawn on screen was a 180-degree turn. This indication is similar to those shown when in a holding pattern, where a 180-degree turn is required to remain in a stable position. This confused the pilots for nine seconds, during which time the plane banked past a 45-degree angle to almost 90 degrees, steeper than the design allowed. The A310 cannot turn this steeply while maintaining height, and the plane started to lose altitude quickly. The increased g-forces on the pilots and crew made it extremely difficult for them to regain control. The autopilot, which no longer controlled the ailerons, used its other controls in order to compensate, pitching the nose up and increasing thrust; as a result the plane began to stall; the autopilot, unable to cope, disengaged completely. A second, louder indicator light came on to alert the pilots of the complete disengagement, and this time they did notice it. At the same time, the autopilot's display screen went blank. To recover from the stall, an automatic system lowered the nose and put the plane into a nosedive. The reduced g-forces enabled Kudrinsky to re-take his seat. Piskaryov then managed to pull out of the dive, but over-corrected, putting the plane in an almost vertical ascent, again stalling the plane, which fell out of the sky into a corkscrew dive. Although Kudrinsky and Piskaryov regained control and leveled out the wings, they did not know how far they had descended during the crisis and their altitude by then was too low to recover. The plane crashed at high vertical speed, estimated at 70 m/s (14,000 ft/min). All 75 occupants died from impact.
The aircraft crashed with its landing gear up, and all passengers had been prepared for an emergency, as they were strapped into their seats. No distress calls were made prior to the crash. Despite the struggles of both pilots to save the aircraft, it was later concluded that if they had just let go of the control column, the autopilot would have automatically taken action to prevent stalling, thus avoiding the accident.
The wreckage was located on a remote hillside in the Kuznetsk Alatau mountain chain, approximately 20 kilometres (12 mi) east of Mezhdurechensk, Kemerovo Oblast, Russia; the flight data recorders were found on the second day of searching. Families of western victims placed flowers on the crash site, while families of Chinese victims scattered pieces of paper with messages written on them around the crash site.
The airline originally denied that the children were in the cockpit, but accepted the fact when the Moscow-based magazine Obozrevatel (Russian: Обозреватель, Observer) published the transcript on the week of Wednesday, 28 September 1994. The Associated Press said that, according to the transcript, "the Russian crew almost succeeded in saving the plane". The New York Times said that "A transcript of the tape printed in the magazine Obozrevatel shows that the Russian crew nearly managed to save the Airbus plane and the 75 people on board, but that it was hampered by the presence of children and its unfamiliarity with the foreign-made plane." The New York Times also stated that an analysis by an aviation expert published in Rossiiskiye Vesti (Russian: Российские вести, Russian News) supported that analysis.
2258 Eldar: Why's it turning?
2259 Kudrinsky: Is it turning by itself?
2260 Eldar: Yes ... it is
2261 Kudrinsky: I don't know why it's turning
2266 Eldar: Is it going off-course?
2266 Makarov: Could it be some kind of zone?
2267 Piskaryov: We've gone into a zone, a holding pattern
2268 Kudrinsky: Have we?
2269 Piskaryov: Of course we have.
2270 Makarov: Guys ...
The plane exceeds a 45-degree bank angle. The g-forces increase, making it difficult for Kudrinsky to return to his seat.
2272 Kudrinsky: Hold it! Hold the control column
2275 Makarov: The speed ...
2276 Piskaryov: The other way!
2277 Kudrinsky: To the left! To the left!
2281 Piskaryov: Left!
2281 Kudrinsky: Left... The other way!
2281 Makarov: Turn it, to the left!
2282 Piskaryov: Left!
2284 Eldar: I am turning it left!
2284 Piskaryov: To the right!
2285 Kudrinsky: To the right
2288 Piskaryov: Can't you see, or what?
Altitude warnings, autopilot disengagement warnings, and stall warnings sound in quick succession. The plane begins to descend at speeds of up to 1000 feet per second, causing the plane to almost reach break-up speed.
2291 Piskaryov: Turn right. Turn right! Turn right!
2297 Kudrinsky: RIGHT!
2298 Piskaryov: To the left. There's the ground!
2303 Kudrinsky: Eldar, get out ... Climb back out ... Climb back out, Eldar. You see the danger, no?
2314 Piskaryov: Throttles to idle!
Piskaryov pulls out of the dive, but over-corrects. The aircraft climbs almost vertically, and then starts to stall.
2319 Kudrinsky: Eldar, get out! Get out, Eldar, get out ... Get out, Eldar, get out, get out ... get out ... [gasping] get out ... Get out, I say!
The g-forces slightly decrease, enough for Eldar to get out of the captain's seat. Kudrinsky finally returns to his seat, able to work with Piskaryov.
2334 Piskaryov: Full power! Full power! ... Full power!
2336 Kudrinsky: Got full power, got it
2337 Piskaryov: Full power!
2338 Kudrinsky: Got it ...
2340 Piskaryov: Full power!
2346 Kudrinsky: I gave it full power, I gave it
2348 Piskaryov: What's the speed?
2350 Makarov(?): Look on the left, it's three-forty
2354 Kudrinsky: ... Okay ... [sobbing] Full power!
2365 Piskaryov: Speed is very high
2367 Kudrinsky: High, is it?
2368 Piskaryov: Yes, isn't it?
2369 Kudrinsky: I switched it off
2371 Piskaryov: We're coming out, coming out!
2377 Kudrinsky: Done
2382 Piskaryov: Gently! ... Shit, not again
2388 Kudrinsky: Don't turn it right! The speed [unintelligible]
2392 Piskaryov: There!
2393 Kudrinsky: We'll get out of this. Everything's fine ... Gently [unintelligible], gently ... Pull up gently!
2400 (17:58:01 UTC) [Sound of impact, end of recording]
In popular culture
The events of Flight 593 were featured in "Kid in the Cockpit", a Season 3 (2005) episode of the Canadian TV series Mayday (called Air Emergency and Air Disasters in the U.S. and Air Crash Investigation in the UK and elsewhere around the world). The flight was also included in a Mayday Season 6 (2007) Science of Disaster special titled "Who's Flying the Plane?"
- Aeroflot accidents and incidents
- Aeroflot accidents and incidents in the 1990s
- China Airlines Flight 140, another plane crash occurred the next month where the pilots failed to understand the plane's automated systems.
- "A310 crash findings imminent". Flight International: 8. 15–21 June 1994. Archived from the original on 27 April 2012. Retrieved 27 April 2012.
- "Transcript reveals cockpit anarchy". Flight International: 5. 5–11 October 1994. Archived from the original on 3 May 2012. Retrieved 3 May 2012.
- "Tape Confirms The Pilot's Son Caused Crash Of Russian Jet". The New York Times. 28 September 1994. Archived from the original on 31 March 2012. Retrieved 31 March 2012.
Velovich, Alexander (13–19 April 1994). "A310 crash: Conflict over child at controls' report (Page 4)". Flight International: 4–5. Archived from the original on 27 April 2012. Retrieved 27 April 2012.
"A310 crash: Conflict over child at controls' report (Page 5)". Flight International. Archived from the original on 27 April 2012. Retrieved 10 September 2012.
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- "Tape Reveals Kids Got Flying Lesson Before Crash". The Seattle Times. Associated Press. 28 September 1994. Archived from the original on 3 February 2013.
- Official accident investigation report (Russian)
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- "Official accident report" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 9 September 2014.
- Aeroflot Flight 593 cockpit voice recording
- "Who's Flying the Plane?". Mayday. Season 6. Episode 3. 2007. Discovery Channel Canada / National Geographic Channel.
- "Aeroflot Online schedule". Aeroflot. Retrieved 11 December 2014.
- (in Russian) Official accident report (Archive)
- "Airdisaster.com account of the crash, with wreckage photo". Archived from the original on 7 November 2015.
- on YouTube