A Russian passenger jet operated by Aeroflot crash-landed and erupted in flames as it hit the runway at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport May 5, killing 41 of the 78 passengers and crew aboard, including one American.
Some passengers aboard Aeroflot flight SU1492 reported that the Aeroflot plane was struck by lightning shortly after taking off from Sheremetyevo at 6:03 p.m. local time. Russia’s Interfax news agency reported that the airplane experienced a “loss of communication” after the lightning strike. Russian investigators said they are looking into a number of potential causes, including weather conditions, pilot qualifications, air traffic controllers, maintenance personnel, and aircraft malfunction.
“We mourn the loss of life in yet another airline tragedy,” said Beasley Allen attorney Mike Andrews. “Although the ‘inflight emergency’ appears to be poor flight communications attributed to a lightning strike, it is unusual for it to have resulted in a crash landing. In fact, every commercial aircraft is struck by lightning at least once a year on average. If the plane were indeed struck by lightning, electrical arrestors should have isolated and protected the plane’s avionics and other critical systems.” Mike is currently investigating the crash of Ethiopian Airlines flight 302 on behalf of some of the families devastated by the loss of loved ones on that plane.
“Carbon fiber materials and special electrical mesh built into aircraft is designed to further isolate and protect aircraft from lightning strikes,” Mike said. “The subject plane is a relatively new design and this crash will require extensive investigation to determine the cause, but because the incident occurred in Moscow, we may never know the real story.”
Video of the crash-landing from Russian television published by CNN shows the Aeroflot jet approaching the runway. Upon initial touchdown, the aircraft bounced once, launching it several feet back into the air. When the plane contacts the runway the second time, an explosion erupts at the rear of the plane, and a ball of fire and black smoke engulf the tail end and midsection. NBC reported that the aircraft was heavy with fuel when it crash-landed.
The Aeroflot jet was a Superjet 100 made by Russian aircraft manufacturer Sukhoi. The Superjet 100 is the first post-Soviet commercial aircraft to have been designed and built in Russia. The narrow, single-aisle planes entered the market in 2011. There are about 100 of them in operation, mostly in Russia, as they are used primarily for domestic and regional routes. The narrow-bodied, dual-class cabin aircraft can transport 100 passengers.
According to CNN, Superjet 100 planes have been involved in other emergency incidents. In 2012, a demonstration flight in Indonesia crashed in a remote, mountainous part of the country, killing all of the 44 people onboard. Most of those aboard the showcase flight were invited by the manufacturer.
Earlier that same year, another Superjet 100 operated by Aeroflot and bound for Astrakhan, Russia, aborted its flight and returned to Moscow because of problems with the aircraft’s undercarriage. In 2011, another Aeroflot Superjet 100 had to be fixed in Minsk due to similar problems, CNN reported.
According to various reports, Aeroflot flight SU1492 was in the air just 28 minutes when it was forced to loop back to Moscow.
Jeremy Brooks, a 22-year-old man from the Santa Fe, New Mexico area, was among the passengers killed on the flight. He had recently graduated from Colorado College with a degree in environmental science and was headed to northwest Russia to serve as a fishing guide.
A “thorough investigation” of the Aeroflot crash landing has been ordered by Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to the TASS Russian News Agency.
Russian Transport Minister Yevgeny Dietrich said in a government meeting that families of those who were killed in the crash will receive $137,991 each, according to TASS.