Russian Antonov AN-26 Crash: What We Know So Far

More details are becoming available surrounding the Kamchatksy Aviation Enterprise Antonov AN-26 crash on Tuesday afternoon. The aircraft is now believed to have crashed into a slope. Search teams have located several pieces of wreckage from the aircraft both on land and in the sea.  Images from the search efforts have been caught on film. Unfortunately, there is no hope of any survivors.

An Antonov AN-26 (not the same as pictured) crashed in Russia’s Far East on Tuesday. Photo: Getty Images

On July 6th, an Antonov AN-26 carrying 22 passengers and six crew crashed just before reaching the airport of Palana on the Kamchatka peninsula. Operating Flight PTK-251 from Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, the aircraft failed to make its scheduled communication on approach to its destination. This was approximately nine kilometers out from the airport at about 15:00 local time.

Working under the assumption that the aircraft, with tail number RA-26085, had crashed just off the coast, search teams consisting of over 50 people, two helicopters, and several boats were deployed. Unfortunately, they quickly found debris that was identified as likely parts of the missing aircraft.

Crashed into coastal slope

Yesterday, the Kamchatka Ministry of Emergencies confirmed that the aircraft had been found to have collided with the top of a coastal slope, close to four kilometers away from the airport. Several pieces of the wreckage have been located – some on land and some in the water.

At least 19 bodies have been recovered up until this point, Russian news agency RIA Novosti reports. There is no hope of any survivors. On board the flight was one child under the age of 12 and the Mayor of Palana, Olga Mokhireva.

Search and rescue An-24
Search and rescue teams have thus far located pieces of the plane both on land and off the coast. Nineteen bodies have also been recovered. Photo: Getty Images

The plane belonged to an airline called the Kamchatka Aviation Enterprise and had reportedly been in operation since 1982. The cause of the crash is yet to be determined, but tricky weather conditions are suspected to have played a major part. The Far Eastern Prosecutor’s Office has launched an investigation into the airline’s maintenance work, crew training, and overall flight safety systems.

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Experienced flight crew

According to the Aviation Herald, the pilot captaining the flight was 35 years old. He had been with Kamchatka Aviation Enterprise since 2013 and had accumulated over 3,300 flight hours, including 750 as captain. The first officer had been with the company for over a year, having accumulated 1,253 total hours, 1,091 of which were on the specific type.

Meanwhile, the flight engineer had 6,900 hours on the type and a total of 9,300. At the age of 65, he had been with the carrier for a very long time. The navigator, 49, joined Kamchatka Aviation Enterprise in 2018 after 11 years with state aviation. He had 2,090 hours total and 1,263 hours on the type. The team had reportedly worked together for some time.

The aircraft was piloted by an experienced crew and had passed the last inspection in the week before the crash. Photo: Getty Images

Aircraft with extended service life

The aircraft reportedly passed its last airworthiness inspection in the week before Tuesday’s fatal crash. It had also recently undergone a total overall for extension of service life, which would otherwise normally be 35 years for an Antonov AN-26.

Some footage has emerged of pieces of the wreckage, where the logo of the airline can clearly be distinguished. Search efforts have been complicated due to strong winds and high waves.

Not the first Palana fatal crash

This is not the first accident of its kind. In September 2012, an Antonov AN-28 from the same company also impacted the slope on approach to Palana. The final report attributed the crash to,

“…non-compliance of the crew with the published approach procedure, descending below minimum height prematurely while flying in mountainous terrain in weather conditions that prevented consistent visual contact with the ground.”

The blood of both flight crew was also found to have levels of alcohol exceeding the limit of regulations. Ten out of 14 people on board died in the crash.