Russian plane crash raises fresh concerns about ageing fleet

Jun 21, 2011

The deadly plane crash in northern Russia on Monday night that left forty four people dead and eight in a critical condition has raised fresh concerns about the airworthiness of Russia’s ageing civil aircraft fleet.

Although investigators have warned it is too early to say precisely what caused the disaster, they said mechanical failure (along with human error and bad weather) was one of the lead theories.

State media told viewers that the plane involved in the crash, a Tupolev-134 passenger jet, was generally reliable, but conceded it was in the process of being phased out due to its old age.

Although Russian airlines flying international routes typically use more modern Boeings and Airbus planes, many domestic carriers continue to use ageing Soviet-era aircraft that are on their last legs.

The Soviet-era jet involved in the crash was thirty one years old, and Russia’s transport minister Igor Levitin warned in 2007 that such planes were getting too old for commercial use and should be withdrawn from service within five years.

Around 150 such planes are estimated to remain in service inside Russia however, along with a similar number of ageing Tupolev-154 passenger liners which are also reaching the end of their service life.