Latest: Russian plane ‘struck by lightning’ before fatal blaze

Latest: Russian media have quoted the pilot of the airliner that burst into flames during an emergency landing in Moscow as saying the plane was without radio communications because of a lightning strike.

Sunday’s fire killed 41 of the 78 people aboard the Aeroflot plane.

The plane had taken off for Murmansk in stormy weather, but quickly turned back for an emergency landing. It made a hard landing and flames erupted.

Pilot Denis Evdokimov was quoted by Zvezda TV and the Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper that “because of lightning, we had a loss of radio communication.”

State TV quoted flight attendant Tatiana Kasatnika as saying “We took off, got into a cloud, there was strong hail, and at that moment there was a pop and some kind of flash, like electricity”.

Both flight recorders have been recovered from the plane

Russian Investigative Committee spokeswoman Svetlana Petrenko was quoted by Russian news agencies on Monday as saying investigators are looking into three main possibilities behind the cause of the disaster – insufficient pilot qualifications, equipment failure, and weather.

Video on Russian TV showed the Aeroflot plane’s underside bursting into flames and spewing black smoke after making a hard landing at Sheremetyevo Airport on Sunday night.

Those who escaped leapt out of the Sukhoi SSJ100 airliner down inflatable emergency slides and ran across the tarmac.

Employees of the Russian Investigative Committee working at the scene at Sheremetyevo Airport (Russian Investigative Committee/AP)
Employees of the Russian Investigative Committee working at the scene at Sheremetyevo Airport (Russian Investigative Committee/AP)

Storms were passing through the Moscow area when the jet caught fire during the emergency landing, after it turned back during an internal flight to Murmansk.

Russian transport minister Yevgeny Dietrich said 41 bodies have been recovered from the burned wreckage.

The Aeroflot Sukhoi SSJ100 aircraft after the emergency landing in Moscow (Pavel Golovkin/AP)
The Aeroflot Sukhoi SSJ100 aircraft after the emergency landing in Moscow (Pavel Golovkin/AP)

He also told reporters in a briefing on Monday that six people who survived the disaster on Sunday night are being treated in hospital.

- Press Association

Both flight recorders recovered from Russian plane after fatal blaze

Update 10.30am: Both flight recorders have been recovered from the plane that caught fire while making an emergency landing in Moscow, killing at least 40 people, Russian officials said.

Russian Investigative Committee spokeswoman Svetlana Petrenko was quoted by Russian news agencies on Monday as saying investigators are looking into three main possibilities behind the cause of the disaster – insufficient pilot qualifications, equipment failure, and weather.

Video on Russian TV showed the Aeroflot plane’s underside bursting into flames and spewing black smoke after making a hard landing at Sheremetyevo Airport on Sunday night.

Those who escaped leapt out of the Sukhoi SSJ100 airliner down inflatable emergency slides and ran across the tarmac.

Employees of the Russian Investigative Committee working at the scene at Sheremetyevo Airport (Russian Investigative Committee/AP)
Employees of the Russian Investigative Committee working at the scene at Sheremetyevo Airport (Russian Investigative Committee/AP)

Storms were passing through the Moscow area when the jet caught fire during the emergency landing, after it turned back for unspecified reasons during an internal flight to Murmansk.

Meanwhile, Russian transport minister Yevgeny Dietrich said 41 bodies have been recovered from the burned wreckage.

He also told reporters in a briefing on Monday that six people who survived the disaster on Sunday night are being treated in hospital.

- Press Association

The Aeroflot Sukhoi SSJ100 aircraft after the emergency landing in Moscow (Pavel Golovkin/AP)
The Aeroflot Sukhoi SSJ100 aircraft after the emergency landing in Moscow (Pavel Golovkin/AP)

At least 40 dead as Russian plane catches fire in emergency landing

Update 7am: At least 40 people died when an Aeroflot airliner burst into flames while making an emergency landing at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport, officials said.

The Sukhoi SSJ100 operated by national airline Aeroflot had 73 passengers and five crew members on board when it touched down and sped down a runway spewing huge flames and black smoke.

Elena Markovskaya, a spokeswoman for Russia’s Investigative Committee, said early on Monday that 41 people were killed. But Health Minister Veronika Skvortsova said later that 38 survived, implying the death toll was 40.

The Aeroflot Airlines plane on fire during an emergency landing (@artempetrovich/AP)
The Aeroflot Airlines plane on fire during an emergency landing (@artempetrovich/AP)

The victims included one member of the crew and at least two teenagers, according to the Investigative Committee.

Video showed desperate passengers leaping out of the plane onto inflatable evacuation slides and staggering across the airport’s tarmac and grass, some holding luggage.

(PA Graphics)
(PA Graphics)

The airport said in a statement that the plane, which had taken off from Sheremetyevo Airport for the northern city of Murmansk, turned back for unspecified technical reasons and made a hard landing that started the fire.

Video broadcast later on Russian television showed flames bursting from the jet’s underside as it lands and then bounces.

The plane apparently did not have time to jettison fuel before the emergency landing, news reports said.

The SSJ100, also known as the Superjet, is a two-engine regional jet put into service in 2011 with considerable fanfare as a signal that Russia’s troubled aerospace industry was on the rise.

However, the plane’s reputation was troubled after defects were found in some horizontal stabilisers.

The plane’s manufacturer, Sukhoi Civil Aircraft, said the plane in Sunday’s accident had received maintenance at the beginning of April. Aeroflot said the pilot had some 1,400 hours of experience flying the plane.

A Russian Investigative Committee van travels to Sheremetyevo airport (Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP)
A Russian Investigative Committee van travels to Sheremetyevo airport (Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP)

The plane is largely used in Russia as a replacement for outdated Soviet-era aircraft, but also has been used by airlines in other countries, including Armenia and Mexico.

This is the second fatal accident involving a SSJ100. In 2012, a demonstration flight in Indonesia struck a mountain, killing all 45 on board.

- Press Association

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