NEVINNOMYSSK /Stavropol Region/, June 15. /TASS/. The Interstate Aviation Committee’s report about the May 5 accident involving the SSJ 100 plane at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport confirmed that all systems of the ill-fated aircraft worked normally, Russian Industry and Trade Minister Denis Manturov told journalists.
“As far as the equipment is concerned, all systems worked in normal regime. <…> When [the lightning] knocked the autopilot off, the system worked perfectly, giving the pilot the opportunity to continue the flight. It was possible to continue the flight or to burn the extra fuel for a safe emergency landing, but the pilot made the decision [to land with a full tank],” he said.
According to the ministry, the pilot retained full control of the aircraft until the landing went wrong.
“Despite being hit by a lightning, all of the plane’s systems – communications, control, wing devices, chassis, engine thrust – worked in normal regime and allowed to safely continue the flight. Judging by the readout of cockpit conversations, the plane was absolutely controllable until hitting the ground,” he added.
Aeroflot’s Sukhoi Superjet-100, which left Moscow’s Sheremetievo airport for Murmansk in the evening of May 5 had to return to the airport of departure approximately 30 minutes later. It made a crash landing and caught fire. There were 73 passengers and five crew on board. Forty one people died and another nine were taken to the hospital. A criminal case was opened under Part 3 of Article 263 of the Criminal Code (violation of air traffic and aircraft operation safety rules that caused two or more negligent deaths). The investigation is pursuing several lines of inquiry, including the pilots’ qualification, equipment failure and bad weather.
The Interstate Aviation Committee, an air accident investigation authority for Russia and former Soviet states, said in its preliminary report that after the lightning had struck the plane, pilots had lost communications with air-traffic controllers for some time and the autopilot went out of order, setting off the sound warning system. The pilots made the decision to land with full tanks. The aircraft caught fire after hitting the ground several times upon landing, but its engines continued to work until the plane fully stopped.