Pulkovo Aviation Enterprise Flight 612
The Pulkovo Tupolev Tu-154M involved in the accident, RA-85185, at Frankfurt Airport in 2004
|Date||August 22, 2006|
|Site||Sukha Balka, Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine
|Aircraft type||Tupolev Tu-154M|
|Operator||Pulkovo Aviation Enterprise|
|Flight origin||Anapa Airport, Anapa, Russia|
|Destination||Pulkovo Airport, Saint Petersburg, Russia|
Pulkovo Aviation Enterprise Flight 612 was a scheduled passenger flight, operated by Saint Petersburg-based airlines Pulkovo Aviation Enterprise, flying from Anapa Airport to Pulkovo Airport (St. Petersburg). On 22 August 2006, while en route to Saint Petersburg, the aircraft crashed in Donetsk Oblast in Eastern Ukraine, near the Russian border. All 170 people on board were killed in the crash.
The crash incurred the third highest death toll of any aviation accident involving a Tupolev Tu-154, after the crash of Aeroflot Flight 3352 and Aeroflot Flight 7425. With 170 deaths, the crash was the deadliest aviation accident that occurred in 2006. At the time it was the deadliest crash in Ukraine modern history and the second in Ukraine SSR, after the 1979 Dniprodzerzhynsk mid-air collision, until it was surpassed in 2014 when Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down 40 miles east of Flight 612's crash site, also located in Donetsk Oblast, killing 298 people in the deadliest single airliner shoot-down in aviation history.
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Flight 612 was served by a Russian Tupolev Tu-154M airliner (registration: RA-85185), operated by Pulkovo Aviation Enterprise. The aircraft did not refuel in Anapa and departed on time. "The Pulkovo Airlines flight departed Anapa as scheduled. All necessary maintenance was performed as required before departure," said Oleg Tolstyh, General Director of Anapa's Vityazevo Airport. The aircraft was manufactured in 1992, had been in service for approximately 25,000 flight hours. It had first flown in China until Pulkovo Aviation Enterprise acquired it in 2001. The pilot of the aircraft had over 12,000 hours of flying experience, 6,000 of which were as a pilot of a Tu-154.
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"On Tuesday, at 15:37 (Moscow Time), a Tu-154 airliner of the St. Petersburg-based Pulkovo Airlines sent an SOS signal and disappeared from radar contact at 15:39 (Moscow Time)," Channel One reported. "Preliminary data suggests that the plane crashed 45 kilometers (28 mi) north of Donetsk." Later it was determined that the plane crashed near the village of Sukha Balka.
"At an altitude of 11 500 metres (37,000 feet), the aircraft sent three SOS signals, dropped sharply in altitude and sent another SOS at 3000 metres (9,000 feet)," said Anatoli Samoshin, vice Flight Operations Director at Pulkovo Aviation Enterprise. There were no other communications.
Approximately 260 rescue personnel arrived at the scene, which was blocked off by the authorities. The field of debris and bodies was about 400 metres (1,300 feet) in length. On Wednesday, Ukrainian emergency service personnel concluded their search for bodies, confirming that all 170 people onboard perished in the accident. Due to the extensive crash forces and post-accident fires, rescuers believed that it would be very difficult to identify the majority of the victims on-site. The aircraft belly-flopped into a swampy area and disintegrated on impact. The search for the black boxes, which was interrupted for the night, concluded the following morning when both recorders were found and subsequently transported to Moscow for analysis.
The crash was witnessed by a local farmer and a young couple seeking shelter from the rain. They told reporters that they saw the aircraft falling out of the sky and that it burst into flames upon hitting the ground. They could see people in a number of seats that were thrown out of the aircraft on impact, but none showed any signs of life.
Early reports suggested that Flight 612 may have been caught in a thunderstorm; immediately prior to the crash, the pilots notified air traffic control that they were experiencing severe turbulence. According to the residents of a nearby town, the weather at the time of the crash was violent enough to cause power outages and cell phone disruptions on the ground. Authorities on the scene have speculated that the aircraft was struck by lightning which may have initiated an onboard fire. However, another theory has since been proposed. Based on various information, including the partially deciphered information from a recovered flight recorder, crash investigators believe that the aircraft climbed to an altitude higher than the maximum for which it was designed, causing the aircraft to enter into a flat spin from which it never recovered.
Interstate Aviation Committee, after initial decoding of the flight recorder data, issued the following flight safety recommendations: avoid entering thunderstorms, follow all maximum height limitations based on aircraft load and outside air temperature, and to improve pilot training when working in these situations. According to Annex 13 "Aircraft Accident and Incident Investigation" of Chicago Convention IAC does not issue information to public about people or organisations responsible for a crash—the only goal of an IAC investigation is to improve flight safety. Determining the guilty parties can be done only during trial.
The MAK final report concluded:
The cause of the crash was the aircraft being flown in manual flight mode with excessive angles of attack causing a stall with a subsequent transition to a flat spin and collision with the ground at high vertical speed. The flight manual and crew training programs did not provide instruction on manual pitch control and pitch trim during high-altitude flight. The lack of appropriate simulators contributed to the crew’s lack of ability. While avoiding areas of thunderstorms and turbulence, the crew allowed the aircraft to enter pitch oscillations exceeding the angle of attack operational range. Lack of control over speed and not following the Flight Manual to prevent and recover from a stall and poor crew resource management allowed the situation to escalate into a catastrophic one.
There were 160 passengers and 10 crew members aboard the aircraft. Among the passengers, 115 were adults and 45 were children under 12 years old. Among the adults, 8 were over 60 (including a 92-year-old woman who flew with one of her grandsons and his wife and two of her great-grandchildren). Earlier reports by the media and by the airline indicated that 159 passengers were on the flight, 39 children under 12 and six infants under 2 years of age. Some other sources reported that the plane was carrying 171 people. Authorities could not explain this apparent discrepancy with the numbers and asked the public to wait for expert analysis to be completed.
The Russian Ministry of Emergency Situations published a list of passengers travelling on Flight 612. Out of 159 people, 20 were travelling to Norilsk through St. Petersburg, and three to Murmansk. Most of the passengers were families travelling back from vacations with children.
Ukraine held a national day of mourning for the people killed in the crash on Wednesday, August 23 and shifted celebration of their 15th Independence Day from August 24 to August 26. Russia held a national day of mourning on Thursday, August 24, 2006.
Passenger list discrepancy
Investigators combing the site found 171 bodies and one body fragment, but authorities were unable to explain the discrepancy with the flight list, which registered 160 passengers and 10 crew, saying that expert analysis would be required.
- "Investigation progress of RA-85185 crash". Interstate Aviation Committee website (in Russian). 2006-08-29.
- RIA Novosti—Russia—Russia airliner with 170 people crashes in E. Ukraine—rescuers – 1
- Новости NEWSru.com :: Версии катастрофы Ту-154 под Донецком: он вышел за "потолок" и сорвался в "плоский штопор"
- "The crew sent the May Day signal and said that the liner was carrying eleven crewmembers and 160 passengers, including 40 children."
- Tom Parfitt (23 August 2006). "170 die as Russian plane is struck by lightning". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 3 January 2015.
- Питання відзначення 15-ї річниці незалежності України| вiд 23.08.2006 № 724/2006
- "Mourning for Ukraine crash dead". BBC News. August 23, 2006. Retrieved May 22, 2010.
|Photos of RA-85185 at Airliners.net|
- "Ту-154 RA-85185 22.08.2006." (Investigation, Archive). (in Russian) Interstate Aviation Committee. (PDF, Archive)
- ОФИЦИАЛЬНОЕ ЗАЯВЛЕНИЕ ФГУАП «ПУЛКОВО» ИНФОРМАЦИЯ О РЕЙСЕ АНАПА - САНКТ-ПЕТЕРБУРГ (in Russian)—Pulkovo Aviation
- 170 die as Russian plane is struck by lightning
- Video of the crash
- ASN description of the accident
- Cockpit Voice Recorder
- Cockpit Voice Recorder transcript and accident summary