Russian Ships, Drones Comb Tu-154 Crash Site

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UPDATE: Russia’s defense ministry says it has recovered a second flight data recorder from the Tupolev Tu-154 that crashed into the Black Sea on Dec. 25, killing all 92 passengers and crews.

The announcement on Dec. 28 comes one day after the aircraft’s cockpit voice recorder was delivered to a Russian air force laboratory in Lyubertsy, Moscow, for cleaning and decryption. Some reports suggest faulty wing flaps are to blame for the deadly mishap based on initial evidence from the flight recorder, but Moscow has made no official determination.

Meanwhile, underwater towing vehicles belonging to the navy have recovered major components of the stricken aircraft, including an engine, landing gear and fuselage skin.

As reported earlier, Russia is mourning the deaths of 92 passengers and aircrew on board the ill-fated military transport, which crashed shortly after takeoff from Sochi Airport. The Tu-154B-2 belonging to the air force had stopped off in Sochi en route to Russia’s coastal airbase in Latakia, Syria, but went down less than one mile (1.5 km) from shore moments after lifting off.

The aircraft was carrying 84 passengers and eight crew, including nine journalists and 64 members of a Russian Red Army military choir, the famed Alexandrov Ensemble, who were due to perform for Russian troops and airmen deployed to the war-torn nation. The passenger manifest included eight soldiers, two federal civil servants and renowned charity worker and human rights activist, Yelizaveta Glinka. All on board are presumed dead, the Russian defense ministry says.

There have been no official statements about the cause of the disaster, but reports by Russian state media suggest that mechanical failure and not terrorism is to blame. A commission headed by Russia’s transport minister, Maxim Sokolov, has been set up to determine the exact cause.

“A thorough investigation will be conducted to determine the cause of the plane crash and every effort will be made to provide support to the families of the victims,” Russian President Vladimir Putin says, adding that Dec. 26 will be a day of national mourning. The families of the victims will be paid 5.8 million rubles (US$95,200) as compensation.

This is the deadliest crash involving a Tu-154 since Polish president Lech Kaczynski and 95 others died while trying to land in poor weather at a military aerodrome near Smolensk in western Russia on April 10, 2010. In 2002, an Iran Air Tours Tupolev Tu-154 crashed, killing 118 passengers and crew.

The defense ministry says the Soviet-era three-engine narrowbody airliner was delivered in 1983 and underwent routine maintenance as recently as September. The aircraft, registration RA-85572, had logged 6,689 flight hours and was last refurbished on Dec. 29, 2014. It was being flown by Roman Alexandrovich Volkov, an experienced military pilot with more than 3,500 hours of flight time over his career.

Wreckage from the aircraft was located on a reef approximately 230 ft. (70 m) below water. The first 10 bodies and 86 aircraft fragments arrived in Moscow on Dec. 26, transported via an Ilyushin Il-76 military airlifter, for identification and  analysis as part of the investigation. More bodies and parts have since arrived.

More than 40 ships as well as helicopters, submarines and remotely operated aircraft and deep-sea vessels have joined the search for bodies and debris. The government has established a 4 mi.² (10.5 km²) search zone and the recovery operations are continuing day and night with the assistance of surface and underwater searchlights as well as side-scanning sonar systems from anti-submarine warships. More 130 divers have joined the search, the defense ministry says.

Other search-and-recovery assets include rescue ships of Moscow's Black Sea Fleet and manned submarines belonging to the Russia Geographical Society. The Northern Fleet, which operates in the Arctic and Atlantic oceans, has lent its "Tiger" and "Falcon" unmanned underwater vehicles. Air patrols are being conducted by Kamov Ka-27 naval helicopters and "Orlan-10" and “Garnet-4" surveillance drones.

Flight Safety Foundation records 69 safety incidents involving Tu-154s since 1973, with 40 of those resulting in the cumulative deaths of more than 2,600 people. More than 1,000 of the popular transport were built through 1997, mostly for commercial use. The tri-jet-configuration transporter, which compares to the Lockheed L-1011 Tristar and Boeing 727, continues to be used by the Russian government for military and civil air transport.

The crash comes amid Russia's armed intervention in Syria and Ukraine. It also comes just days after Moscow's ambassador to Turkey, Andrey Karlov, was assassinated at a public event in Ankara in an apparent revenge attack for Moscow’s actions in Aleppo.

Recent military operations have highlighted both the prowess and fragility of post-Soviet Russian airpower. Several fighters and helicopters have crashed, most recently a Sukhoi Su-33 and Mikoyan MiG-29K that had been attempting to land on Russia's Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier operating in the Mediterranean Sea.

Days prior to the Tu-154 crash, Putin declared that Russia’s military is now “stronger than any aggressor,” while also calling for more investment in strategic nuclear arms. The crash will likely spur calls in Russia to update the military's Cold War-era transport fleets.

Discuss this Blog Entry 22

on Dec 26, 2016

It would be an improvement if AVe Week did not keep double referring to two different types an aircraft is supposedly related to when in fact The TU-154 is analogous to one.

That being a 727.

It is nothing like an L-1011/DC10- of MD-11) other than it has 3 engines.

Frankly its more unique and on tis own due to the rugged nature of its lading capabilities.

on Dec 26, 2016

Deadly Aircraft...

on Dec 26, 2016

What a loss to Russia and the entire world. Best wishes to those families.

on Dec 28, 2016

Really? Ferrying Military Personal to Syria so they can carpet bomb more cities?

Russia is presenting this as a civilian l transport accident with all the violins etc, its a military aircraft on a military mission and Russians can thank Putin for the loss the in.

Putin does remember the sub disaster he was so callous about that almost got him kicked out so out comes all the propagandas. Not that he cares but he is not stupid.

On the other hand who supplied the BUK system that shot down MH17?

He played no violins over that one did he?

on Dec 28, 2016

"Really? Ferrying Military Personal to Syria so they can carpet bomb more cities?"

The choir was quite proficient and never bombed.

Also onboard was Elizaveta Glinka, aka Dr. Liza, a noted humanitarian who was accompanying medical supplies to Tishreen University Hospital.

nybooks.com/contributors/eliza-glinka/

I have nothing nice to say about Putin or his intervention in Syria but cannot allow a crass misrepresentation of the victims of this accident go unremarked.

on Dec 29, 2016

So what you are saying is a propaganda ploy justified us and turns the perpetrators into a victims?

Mr. Kerry just called Israel on the same thing. They are conducting ethnic cleansing and claim it to be the victims.

So lets put it in WWII terms. Germany flies the Choir to Dachau to entertain the troops in their hour of need over xmas. Their finest doctor visits next door to care for the needs of the civilians.

In the meantime the gas oven are cranking on full time.

In accepting this you are the crass one letting the very capable propaganda machine make this a violin session, ah woe is us, .

If Russian was not killing thousands if not 10s of thousands including babies, children in Syria, then one of this would have happed.

No I have not sympathy.

You buys your tickets to support an extermination and you takes your chances.

on Dec 27, 2016

Sputnik reports the Tu-154 "was unable to gain altitude, made a U-turn and disappeared from radar."

Novaya Gazeta reports wreckage was strewn from 8 to 1.5 kilometers from shore.

on Jan 4, 2017

If this is the point, for an aircraft with difficulties to gain altitude, making an U turn can be deadly.

SJS
on Dec 27, 2016

Actually there were a number of Tu-154 deadly crashes in Iran which were not reported in the West. It got to the point where passengers would refuse to fly on the plane.

on Dec 28, 2016

The Tu-154 operated by the Russian Defense Ministry en route to Syria must be attempting to take off without its flaps and slats extended to proper take-off configuration. The Tu-154's instability and sudden roll was consistent with known performance of the Tu-154 with the flaps and slats retracted.

The captain might be continued to pull back on the control column in an attempt to keep the Tu-154's nose raised, which might have created turbulence over the rear-mounted engines and caused the compressor surges. However, the compressor surges would not have significantly reduced the engines' thrust, and that the Tu-154's failure to gain speed was due to aerodynamic drag on the aircraft due to the high angle of attack, rather than a loss of engine thrust.
- Nalliah Thayabharan

on Dec 28, 2016

So called compressor stall kills the thrust for the duration of the stall.

If it backfires (common) it severely shakes the aircraft.

While it may not be the cause of this crash, it is not a innocuous event.

A 747 out of SFO almost took a hilltop off while the pilots tried to figure out which engine, the airframe was shaking so badly they could not read the instruments.

on Jan 4, 2017

Important information, so it is difficult in these cases to identify which engine with compressor stall.

on Jan 4, 2017

Important information, so it is difficult in these cases to identify which engine has compressor stall.

on Dec 28, 2016

The Russian press coverage has been extensive.

Novaya Gazeta reports that a mismatched flap condition caused a stall.

Tass reports that the accident happened as the pilots were retracting the "spoilers" which it claims increase lift. (Tass clearly confuses spoilers and flaps). Then it describes the aircraft at a high angle of attack and rocking from side to side.

Life claims a CVR transcript has one pilot exclaiming profanely about the flaps followed by a comment about going down.

Interfax cited an unnamed source the FDR readout indicated pilot error.
Apparently a man filmed the takeoff departure and crash.

While it is too early to pronounce this an open and shut case it appears to be a flap related case of stall and loss of control.

Mindful of the BEA Trident accident at Staines.

on Dec 28, 2016

Most of the crashes with the TU-154 are due to pilot error, not mechanical failure of design flaws, according to Wikipedia. The Russians, are however, notorious for their relaxed attitude towards safety.

on Dec 28, 2016

Can we just say callous disregard to safety?

Flying cowboys?

on Dec 29, 2016

I wouldn't go that far. Since Aeroflot switched to Boeing and Airbus aircraft there really haven't been any major incidents.

The one incident that really struck me is the one where the captain allowed his 12 year old son fly the airplane, resulting in a sharp turn which ultimately resulted in the deaths of all aboard.

on Dec 29, 2016

May those poor souls rest in peace....
Those artists were incredible.
For conclusion let just wait.

on Dec 30, 2016

Me, I hope they roast in purgatory.

Choir singing while bombing Aleppo?

Humanitarians to the rescue to the mess the Russians made far worse?

The US drops a bomb that goes wrong and the world screams. No we are far from perfect but we try.

Russian carpet bombs Aleppo killing 10s of thousand and they are ho hum.

on Dec 31, 2016

Who started the mess in Iraq, Afghanistan, Lybia, Syria and other places?
Nato forces!!!!
Who raped international treaties in Yugoslavia?
Obama conducted an illegal aggression towards a sovereign country!!
What you like it or not domestic disturbances are none of our businesses!

on Jan 1, 2017

So, would Cambodia and Rwanda be deemed a "domestic disturbance"?

What legitimate interest does Russian have in propping up a dictator in Syria? Was it threatening Russia? ISIL was being handled.

I do not disagree that the US has had a poor track record in many regards in where we intervened and who we propped up.

Indiscriminate bombing though has not been a US strategy since WWII.

I argue that there is some balance and I do not begin to purport to be anything other than a question in all this.

Iraq clearly was none of our business. Fake war.

Afghanistan? Do we sit and allow them to house terrorists that plot to blow up buildings in the US? I think that is more than justified.

Libya? Europeans got all bent out of shape, we supported them but did not lead that effort. Obama was right in the mess left.

Where does an internal issue spill over into an external action?

Yugoslavia was an artificial entirety that worked under a dictatorship and fell apart when that changed (Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Saudis Arabia are also put together entities)

One part was committing ethic cleansing against a part they had no claim to.

What the rump Yugoslavia does inside its borders I could care less, but invading in others? Bosnia, Croatia were stand alone entities. Kosovo was no longer ethnically Yugo.

Again the US got involved when the Europeans proved to be inept.

What you seem to miss is that Obama did his level best to keep the US out of those places, including Syria.

Which in turn led to ISIL as Syria through their muck ups lost the countryside and the ISIL group took over a large part of Syria.

That then spilled over into other countries.

Actions against them not justified as self defense. Regional stability?

So we mourn propaganda efforts by Russia when the aircraft and those on it were supporting the Russian war in Syria.

on Jan 2, 2017

"So, would Cambodia and Rwanda be deemed a "domestic disturbance"?

Profound disturbing disturbances of a most evil nature. One was a result of destabilization of a government guilty of not being amiable to US intentions. The other a result of right-wing tribalism driven by talk radio pundits.

"Indiscriminate bombing though has not been a US strategy since WWII."

We dropped over three times as many bombs on South East Asia as we did in WW II. Much of the tonnage was carpet bombing by B-52s.

"Yugoslavia was an artificial entirety that worked under a dictatorship and fell apart when that changed. . ."

Yugoslavia was created by the Treaty of Versailles after WW I. It was artificial. There were many other artificial countries created after WW I including Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and Iraq.

"What you seem to miss is that Obama did his level best to keep the US out of those places, including Syria.
Which in turn led to ISIL . . "

ISIL was an outcome of Al Qaeda in Iraq which was a result of the US invasion of Iraq. That invasion was not Obama's fault. Technically that invasion and occupation ended with the signing of the Status of Forces Agreement between Iraq and the USA in late 2007. The end of major US involvement did not end the civil disorder in Iraq from which ISIS emerged.

Obama did mostly keep us out of Syria though we did prolong the civil was by supporting some fractious, often internecine, rebels in a quixotic effort at regime change.

"So we mourn propaganda efforts by Russia when the aircraft and those on it were supporting the Russian war in Syria."

Not I. I feel sorry for the non-combatants killed in an airplane accident.

I also felt sorry for everyone who died in South East Asia on both or neither side.There were far more non-combatant deaths in SE Asia than combatants, mostly as a result of the overwhelming fire power wielded by one side.

If Bob Hope had died in an airplane accident whilst en route to Vietnam to perform his Christmas show, would that have justified gloating?

"And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee."
- John Donne

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