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Greetings, readers. As you know, I love aircraft, flight simulation, as well as the TV series Air Crash Investigation. I like to see what went wrong and how the investigators come to their conclusions. A couple of stories really get under my thumbnails. This is one those stories. I got my information from the show, and from an entry of Wikipedia.

Late in the afternoon of September 7, 2011, a tragedy rocked one of Russia’s top hockey teams. The Lokomotiv Yaroslavl team was about to fly from Yaroslavl Russia to the city of Minsk in Belarus for their season opening game. The plane crashed shortly after take-off on the bank of the Volga river, killing all but one of the forty-five people on board. The airplane was a Yak-42 and the airline was Yak Services. As flight #9633 roared down the runway, the three-engine airplane would not lift off. It had more than enough runway and the investigation concluded that the flaps and slats were configured correctly. What could have happened? As with the story of Air Florida Palm 90, the answer makes me furious.

One of the pilots on the three-pilot crew was the vice president of operations, who “pulled some strings,” as the episode phrased, to be able to fly his hockey heroes to their season-opening game. I’m not going to mention names because that is not important, but he had a health condition which turned out to be part of the cause of why the plane crashed. He should not have been flying.

The Yak-42 had enough speed to take off, but mysteriously remained on the ground. Faster and faster it went. The pilots must have thought any second they would take off. Then they ran out of runway and only got airborne momentarily when the plane began bouncing off the grass. It was too late. A wing struck a small tower and veered out of control. It slammed into the ground at the edge of the river, killing all but one. The city and the Kontinental Hockey League were in shock.

The Russian president at the time demanded answers, according to the show. At that time, Russia was not known for its aviation safety. The president wanted better and demanded it. Hockey in Russia was more of a religion, even more than football and baseball is to us. Lots of the players were from the town of Yaroslavl. Not only did they lose their hockey team, but some of them lost good friends as well.

In aviation, I despise it when seemly easy to avoid accidents occur. The pilot responsible not only falsified his health documentation, he falsified his training on the airplane. He had his foot on the brake pedal instead of on a safe foot rest. On the Yak-40, a slightly smaller version, the foot rest area is different in that his foot would not have been touching the brake. In the United States, pilots are not allowed to fly more than one aircraft type at a time. I believe it is to avoid just such mistakes. Russia’s president did make Russian aviation clean up its act, but not in time to save Yak Services charter company. They closed soon after.

To the families of the players, my sympathy. If this blog entry brings up any bad memories, I apologize. My condolences to you.

Until next week, stay cool if you are in the heat wave. Take care and happy reading.

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