Category Archives: accident investigation

The Air Crash Investigation episode on The Lokomotiv Yaroslavl hockey team crash

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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A Morbid Facsination

For many years I have been fascinated, sometimes to a morbid extent, with tragedies. Some which I have studied via reading materials, films, and documentaries are the sinking of the Titanic, the events of 9/11, and air tragedies, including TWA 800 and Pan Am 103.

I have thought many times, why should I have such a morbid fascination with such things which involve people’s suffering? I suppose in a way that it is human nature. Every time someone is out on a window ledge, a crowd gathers around to see if that person will jump or get saved. Now I’m not a jumper watcher; my fascination has always been aircraft.

As mentioned in the last blog entry just briefly, I have been watching episodes of a show called Air Crash Investigation. It documents numerous air tragedies over the years, some with favorable outcomes, and others disastrous.

I’m not certain if it is knowledge I seek or whether I am simply trying to determine what I would do differently. How would I have prevented the crash or accident? I know for a fact that studying the Titanic documentation, the one thing I would not have done would be to put the engines into reverse, slowing down the reaction time. For those of you who have read my blog post about Air Florida Flight 90, I believe that you’ll agree that several mistakes were made causing the crash of that Boeing 737. It seemed that with that particular incident that the more I watched and learned, the angrier I became. The incident that got me the angriest, however, was Pan Am 103.

Pan Am 103 was a flight that on December 21, 1988 was heading home to New York from London, England. A bomb brought that aircraft down over Lockerbie Scotland, killing everyone on board and many on the ground. Later, I found out that Pan Am knew about a bomb threat to that specific flight, told some people, but did not give everyone the option of boarding or not boarding the flight.

TWA 800 took off from New York heading for Europe Paris, France one fateful evening and exploded at 24,000 feet. The nose section detached leaving both pieces to fall to the burning water with everyone still in the plane. No survivors. Months later it was determined that a bomb did not bring it down, but simply faulty wiring near the center gas tank of the more than 20-year-old 747.

Back to my original point of my personal morbid fascination with these stories. When watching these documentaries, I suppose I am not only seeking knowledge but the junior private investigator in me comes out. I just want to understand it from every angle – the whys, the hows, the whens, the conditions leading up to these events. Perhaps in my 20s I should have gone to work for the National Transportation Safety Board. When my health failed and my dream of being a pilot were dashed, then perhaps I could have helped to keep planes safe by working for the NTSB.

Just the other day I read an on-line article about the cruise ship which sank off the Italian coast. The captain abandoned ship and refused orders to go back to it, which I find to be a cowardly act.

Is this all just me wishing knowledge, or is it truly a morbid fascination with death and destruction and the suffering of others? I’ve asked myself that question many times. Why don’t I just watch cartoons and comedy shows? I tell myself, that’s a great idea. But I always seem to be drawn back to Air Crash Investigation or Seconds from Disaster. Over the coming weeks and months I shall think long and hard on this and if I figure it out, I shall share my conclusions.

Until next time.