Experiment points to pilot error in Russian crash

A pilot helping to investigate a Russian jet crash that killed

44 people said Thursday that a simulation pointed to pilot error as

the cause.

The Yak-42 jet crashed into the banks of the Volga River on

Sept. 7 moments after takeoff from the city of Yaroslavl in western

Russia, wiping out the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl professional ice hockey

team, which included several former NHL players.

Test pilot Vasily Sevastyanov told state-run Channel One

television that the plane went into a spin because a pilot pulled

it up too sharply following an abnormally slow run.

Officials have not yet announced the reason for the crash, but

have said that all the plane’s systems were functioning normally

until impact.

Russian media reports said the investigators believe that one of

the pilots accidentally activated the wheel brakes during takeoff,

while another pilot pulled the plane up to a critical angle in a

desperate attempt to get it into the air. The sharp maneuver caused

the jet to crash immediately after takeoff.

Sevastyanov, who participated in the crash simulation at the

Zhukovsky flight test center outside Moscow, said a ”braking

force” kept the plane down during its run, and an attempt to raise

the plane’s nose would lead to a crash.

The only person who survived the crash, flight engineer

Alexander Sizov, told Channel One from his hospital bed that he

couldn’t say whether the plane’s brake was activated during

takeoff.

The crash was the latest in a string of air disasters that have

raised concern about plummeting aviation safety standards in Russia

and prompted President Dmitry Medvedev to suggest replacing all

Soviet-era aircraft with Western-made planes.

Industry experts note, however, that the recent air crashes in

Russia are rooted not simply in the planes’ age, but in a myriad of

other problems, including insufficient crew training, crumbling

airports, lax government controls and widespread neglect of safety

in the pursuit of profit.