This is very bad news indeed:
A passenger plane has crashed near the central Russian city of Perm, killing all 88 people on board, officials say.
The Boeing-737, belonging to a branch of the national airline Aeroflot, was on a flight from Moscow.
At least 21 foreign passengers were on board. An investigation into the cause of the crash is under way.
Radio contact with the plane was lost as it was landing. The wreckage was later found outside Perm, which is located near the Ural mountains.
“The Boeing-737 carried 82 passengers on board, including seven children, and six crew… All passengers were killed,” Aeroflot said in a statement quoted by AFP news agency.
“As the plane was coming in for landing, it lost communication at the height of 1,100 metres and air controllers lost its blip. The airplane was found within Perm’s city limits completely destroyed and on fire.”
A resident of Perm interviewed by AP television news described hearing an explosion that threw her out of bed.
She said her neighbours saw the plane was on fire when it was “still in the air and it looked like a rocket and crashed near the building”.
“The whole sky was lit up like a firework display.”
There are two things which make this particularly worrying. Firstly, the operator was not some two-bit outfit from the provinces but Aeroflot (albeit Aeroflot Nord, a regional branch of the national airline). Aeroflot has made huge strides towards being a decent airline in the last few years, and of all the Russian airlines it was the one I felt most comfortable flying. Secondly, this is a Boeing-737 not some outdated Russian aircraft, although it must be said that the Boeings and Airbuses do not have a great record in Russia. Perhaps it is something to do with the maintenance regime required to keep the western aircraft in the air compared to the Russian aircraft, or maybe the state of the runways plays a part.
But I hope the investigation into this crash is conducted properly and transparently and the results published without any potentially embarrassing details omitted. Despite all the noise and worries about Russia’s recent resurgence as a country with some clout, one thing everybody was happy about is that Russia has been able to vastly improve its airline industry from the dark days of the 1990s when travel in or through Russia was strongly advised against so frequent were accidents. A properly conducted investigation will no doubt reveal weaknesses and faults in the system somewhere along the line, but to do otherwise will recklessly endanger more lives. Let’s hope the Russian authorities will do what’s necessary.