Russian Jet Burst Into A Ball Of Fire Just Before Takeoff


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Russian Jet Burst Into A Ball Of Fire Just Before Takeoff

By Mike Mitchell

January 2, 2011 - Russian emergency ministry officials have reported that three people have died and 43 have been injured when a Russian passenger jet, Tupolev Tu-154, operated by Kogalymavia Airlines, bound for Moscow exploded on Saturday after an engine caught fire while the aircraft was taxiing for take off at Surgut Airport in Siberia. 

Soviet officials reported the passenger jet had been carrying 135 people which included 117 passengers and 18 crew members. Most of the passengers and crew were able to evacuate the plane before exploding into a ball of flames.

At least three people are confirmed dead, three passengers are missing and 43 have been hospitalized or treated with burns, carbon monoxide poisoning, broken bones and other related injuries. Among the passengers were group members of the Russian music group Na-Na.

Vladimir Politov, a group member reported "when the engines were started up, something went wrong and the outer covering of the plane caught fire. We had trouble opening the emergency exits and people began to really panic, with some of them running right through the flames. There was a thick, black smoke and people started to panic. They were literally stepping on each other's heads."  

Kogalymavia Airlines is based in Kogalym, Tyumen, Russia. It operates domestic services. Operations started in May 1993. Its main bases are Kogalym Airport and Surgut Airport, with a hub at Domodedovo International Airport, Moscow. The Tupolev Tu-154 is a three-engine medium-range airliner designed in the mid 1960s and manufactured by Tupolev. As the mainstay 'workhorse' of Soviet and Russian airlines for several decades, it serviced over a sixth of the world's landmass and carried about half of all passengers flown by Aeroflot and its subsidiaries (137.5 million/year or 243.8 billion passenger km in 1990).  

Having been exported and operated by 17 non-Russian airlines and a number of air forces, it remained the standard domestic route airliner of Russia and former Soviet states until the mid 2000s. With a cruising speed of 605 mph, the Tu-154 is one of the fastest civilian aircraft in operation and has a range of 3,280 miles.

Capable of operating from unpaved and gravel airfields, it is used in the extreme Arctic conditions of Russia's northern territories where facilities can be basic. With a service life of 45,000 hours (18,000 cycles) but capable of 80,000 hours with upgrades, it is expected to continue operations until 2016, although noise regulations have seen services to western Europe and other areas restricted.


In January 2010, Russian flag carrier Aeroflot announced the retirement of its Tu-154 fleet after 40 years with the last flight operated being Aeroflot Flight 736 from Ekaterinburg to Moscow on 31 December 2009. Since 1968 there have been 39 fatal incidents involving the Tu-154, most of which were caused by factors unrelated to the aircraft. This number is not considered unusual given its specifications, number in operation, years in service, and heavy use in demanding conditions. 

As of 10 June 2010 a total of 200 Tupolev Tu-154 aircraft (all variants) remained in airline service. The Tu-154 first flew on 4 October 1968. Commercial service began in February 1972, and there is still limited production of the 154M model as of January 2009, despite previous announcements of the end of production in 2006. 1015 Tu-154s have been built, 214 of which are still in service as of 14 December 2009.

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