An Aeroflot plane erupted into flames and left a giant plume of black smoke when it was forced to make an emergency landing within minutes of taking off at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport yesterday (May 5).
The Russian federal investigations agency said that of the 78 crew and passengers on board, 41 people had been killed. Six patients have been hospitalized, three of whom are in critical condition, according to the BBC.
The engine on the Sukhoi Superjet-100 caught fire upon landing after being forced to return to the airport “for technical reasons,” according to a statement from Aeroflot. The plane was scheduled to make a two-and-a-half-hour flight from Moscow to the northern port city of Murmansk yesterday evening local time.
Video showed the aircraft skidding down the runway with a giant plume of flames and smoke streaking behind. The tail end of the plane became engulfed by fire as passengers used exit slides to escape the burning aircraft. Fire engines sped toward the wreckage, spraying it to extinguish the flames.
Aeroflot currently operates 50 Russia-made Sukhoi Superjets in its fleet of 255 passenger aircraft, according to the Guardian. Introduced in 2008, the 100-seater was Russia’s first post-Soviet passenger plane. Russia had hoped the new plane would help the country stage a comeback (paywall) in the global civil aircraft market.
But the jet has been mired in safety concerns, including a metal defect in its tail section that led to its grounding in 2016. The setback came just a few years after a Superjet crashed into a mountain in Indonesia during a promotional flight, killing all 45 onboard. Investigators cited pilot error for the accident. And in 2013, a Superjet failed to takeoff after one of its engines malfunctioned.