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Tragic Russian Plane Crash Leaves 41 Dead

A tragic emergency landing of Russian Aeroflot flight 1492 on Sunday, May 5, 2019, resulted in the deaths of 41 of the 78 passengers onboard. The disaster has come under a large amount of scrutiny from officials in the airline industry, specifically concerning the causal attribution behind the plane’s crash landing. The level of adequacy in pilot training, the protocols of the aviation industry, and Russia’s overall airline professionalism have been targeted amidst the controversy surrounding the incident.

Aeroflot flight 1492 engulfed in flames on the runway of Sheremetyevo Airport. Photo.    Source: CNN

Aeroflot flight 1492 engulfed in flames on the runway of Sheremetyevo Airport. Photo. Source: CNN

The flight, a Sukhoi Superjet SSJ100, took off with routine protocol from Russia’s Sheremetyevo Airport located near Moscow on Sunday evening. Only minutes into the flight, the plane was struck by lightning causing significant system malfunctions in the pilot’s ability to safely operate the aircraft. What ensued afterwards was a half-an-hour race against the clock by the plane’s crew to land the rapidly deteriorating flight.

In the aftermath of the tragedy, accusations and a number of unsavory claims have been launched against the airline industry and figures responsible in the episode. For one, many sources point to pilot error as being the main catalyst behind the disastrous landing of the plane. Reports given by the plane’s pilot Denis Evdokimov indicate that pivotal autopilot and other automatic protection controls shut down. However, Evdokimov’s statements also suggest that the direction of the landing was under typical landing speed conditions which, as observers have noted, was not the apparent case given the plane’s rapid descent and tumultuous landing on the runway. Those knowledgeable on the proper protocols of landing contend that Evdokimov suffered from the egregious human errors of “cognitive tunneling,” a state of anxiety enacted in moments of terror. Some say that in the future these problems can be better avoided with heightened adequacy of pilot training by airlines.

Pilot-error was not the only major human flaw highlighted in the dismal unfoldings the flight’s crash landing. Numerous passengers on board struggled to retrieve their baggage when evacuating the plane upon landing. This delay in offboarding is purported as potentially inhibiting other passengers from exiting, leading to their perish in the fires that were quickly engulfing the back half of the plane. As observers have thoroughly noted, “emergencies can bring out irrational behavior,” and the main task moving forward for the airline industry will be to determine how to best mitigate these problems of human fallibility in severe crisis scenarios.

The back half of flight 1492 was completely destroyed in a ball of fire upon landing. Photo.    Source: Reuters via FT

The back half of flight 1492 was completely destroyed in a ball of fire upon landing. Photo. Source: Reuters via FT

Aside from the operational problems involved in Sunday’s events, Russian air officials have come under major condemnation following the surfacing of a video entailing Russian officials in Sheremetyevo Airport laughing and mocking on the scene as the burning plane crash landed on the runway. Observers have been understandably aghast at the blatant lack of professionalism and ethical conduct apparent in the Russian officials handling of the situation, which has brought even more questioning upon Russia’s airline capabilities.

Following Sunday’s disaster, other SSJ and Aeroflot operated flights have been grounded and delayed from Sheremetyevo and other Russian airports. Attempts are being made to fully determine whether or not technical issues and defaults seemingly present in flight 1492 may be plaguing other aircrafts of similar design, specifically defects with opening plane rear doors which terribly caused the death of the young flight attendant Maksim Moiseev. He has been lauded as a hero for sacrificing himself to save the lives of a number of passengers who were onboard 1492. The disaster of Sunday’s tragic plane crash is undeniable, and efforts to uncover the full extent of knowledge on what exactly caused the catastrophe to unfold are still ongoing.