Aircraft has poor safety record

The Tu-154 aircraft went out of production in 1994.
The Tu-154 aircraft went out of production in 1994.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

MOSCOW • The Tupolev aircraft maker's Tu-154, the type of plane that crashed on Sunday in the Black Sea with 92 people on board, is an ageing Russian workhorse whose record is plagued by accidents.

Designed in the 1960s, it first flew in 1972 and went out of production in 1994. Although Russian commercial airlines are no longer known to use the plane, it is still used by the military.

Despite the tragedy, Russia's Industry and Trade Minister Denis Manturov told local news agencies on Sunday that permanently retiring all Tu-154 aircraft would be "premature".

Similar in size and performance to a Boeing 737, with a range of 4,000km, the Tu-154 can carry between 155 and 180 passengers at a cruising speed of 850kmh.

Russia has experienced several accidents involving the plane. The most recent was on Dec 4, 2014, when a Tu-154 passenger plane broke apart after rolling off the runway at Moscow's Domodedovo airport, killing two people.

But the last major crash involving the plane occurred in 2010, when a Polish jet carrying then President Lech Kaczynski and much of Poland's political elite came down in fog near the Russian city of Smolensk, and all 96 people on board were killed. The delegation was heading to a ceremony in Russia's Katyn forest for thousands of Polish army officers killed by Soviet secret police in 1940 - a massacre the Kremlin had denied until 1990.

Another major crash involving the plane occurred in August 2006, when a Tupolev of the Russian Pulkovo airline crashed in Ukraine after trying to fly above a storm. The tragedy killed 170 people.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 27, 2016, with the headline 'Aircraft has poor safety record'. Print Edition | Subscribe