Aeroflot SJ100 Captain Formally Charged By Authorities

The captain of the Aeroflot SJ100 that crashed earlier this year, killing 41 passengers on board, has been formally charged by the Russian court. This hopefully brings a conclusion to the harrowing time for the victims’ families of the crash and those who survived the ordeal.

SSJ100
The pilot has been charged and admitted to court. Photo: Aeroflot

What was the crash?

Simple Flying reported the original crash back in June of 2019. Aeroflot flight 1492 on May 5th was on its way to Murmansk from Moscow when outside the capital it narrowly avoided a storm. Whilst we don’t know for sure what happened, some theories suggest that the aircraft was struck by lightning. Deciding that it is better to be safe than sorry, the flight crew decided to return to Moscow.

That is when tragedy struck.

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As the aircraft came down to land, the angle of attack was a little too steep which put massive pressure on the front landing gear.  Further inspection showed that when the aircraft touched down nose gear first, the G-force was measured to be the equivalent of 2.55g. This caused the aircraft to bounce back up into the sky by around two meters and slam back down onto the runway, rupturing the fuel tank and causing a fire to start at the rear.

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The authorities have accused the captain of infringement of flight procedures and manuals, resulting in excessive vertical speeds during final approach and too high of an angle of attack at touchdown and the initial portion of the ground run, causing the airplane to bounce as it decelerated along Sheremetyevo’s main runway” – AIN Online report

The tail of the aircraft became a firestorm, killing some instantly but trapping others in confusion and thick smoke. In the end, 41 passengers lost their lives onboard.

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Sukhoi Superjet 100
Many more passengers may have survived if passengers didn’t take their luggage with them. Photo: Aeroflot

What are the details of the court case?

Since then, Russia’s Federal Investigative Committee has brought charges against the pilot.
They found during the course of the investigation that the pilot made several errors:
  • Choosing to fly when there was a storm in the area, or not changing course to avoid it. Other aircraft in the area requested permission to avoid the storms, but this flight did not.
  • Ignoring wind shear warnings when making the approach that highlighted the possible angle of attack.
  • Ignoring advice to go around from the control tower.
  • Not having the experience to operate the aircraft landing manually and flying it outside of the airport and aircraft limits. The pilot, in fact, had never flown the aircraft in manual mode and had no authorization to do so.

According to Flight Global, the pilot is ‘being charged with a crime relating to breaches of air transport safety rules which, as a result of negligence, resulted in two or more fatalities.’

Sukhoi Superjet 100
Aeroflot is moving ahead with more orders for the Sukhoi Superjet 100s. Photo: Aeroflot

What was the court’s charge?

The court has ruled that the pilot is singly responsible for the safety of all 77 of those onboard, including the copilot.

In his defense, the captain said that he was not to blame and that the aircraft became unresponsive enough to make it difficult to control after the lighting strike (forcing him to fly the aircraft manually), and that the aircraft only burst into flames once the cabin crew opened the doors to evacuate.

As listed in the AIN Online article that is following the court case closely, the lawyers representing the victim’s families intend to sue the airline Aeroflot if the pilot is found guilty. The publication also notes that this court case is moving very fast when similar ones in the past have taken years to reach this point.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments.

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Farhan Nazar

Hmmmmm, I originally thought this is a combination of bad weather and pilot error but seeing the listed mistakes I think it's safe to say that it's probably all on the pilots for this one unfortunately

Gerry S

Unqualified to fly the plane manually??? Reminds me of that Air France tragedy. Every pilot should be able to fly manually utilizing computers only as an assistant. That is the fault of the airline. American carriers expect /require their pilots to be capable of “flying” their a/c, not be an afterthought to their computer assistants.

Frank

I’m wondering if those passengers who stuck around to grab their luggage on the way out the door (and caught on video tape) will be charged with manslaughter for holding up the exit process? I still can’t believe what I saw…

Matt

They should be

cowboy

someone in the aircraft company/airline/civil authority should be on the hook as well…it strikes me as unacceptable that a pilot has to be authorized to fly in “manual mode”…inconceivable that he should have been in the aircraft at all.