Russia Releases Terrifying Video Of Superjet Airliner Drifting To A Stop In A Ball Of Flames

The footage is from an accident at an airport outside Moscow last year and has emerged as part of a new criminal case against the pilot.

byJoseph Trevithick|
Russia photo


New footage has emerged of the harrowing crash landing of a Russian Sukhoi Superjet 100 airliner last year, which resulted in the deaths of 41 people on board and left 10 more injured. The video was part of the materials that the committee responsible for investigating the accident collected and forwarded to state prosecutors. Those officials have now formally charged Aeroflot pilot Denis Evdokimov with criminal negligence leading to the fatalities and the destruction of the aircraft.

The accident occurred on May 9, 2019, at Russia's Sheremetyevo airport, which is situated just outside Moscow and is the primary airport serving the country's capital. The Superjet 100, operating at the time as Aeroflot Flight 1492, suffered a lightning strike shortly after taking off, which caused an electrical failure. Denis Evdokimov and his co-pilot Maxim Kuznetsov then made the decision to return to Sheremetyevo and make an emergency landing.

The Superjet 100 bounced during the landing attempt and came down hard again, causing the landing gear to collapse. The aircraft then went skidding down the edge of the runway, damaging the wings, after which a fire erupted as fuel spilled from the wing tanks. The entire rear section of the aircraft ultimately burned away, making it a total loss. Video and pictures had emerged of the accident at the time, but the new footage offers by far the most detailed and terrifying look at the tragedy to date.

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In the new video, which appears to have been shot from a fixed camera inside the airport, Flight 1492 slides into a view and comes to a stop, already engulfed in flames. Some 17 seconds after the aircraft comes to rest, the flight crew opens the right front main cabin door and deploys an emergency slide. Around 13 seconds after that, they deploy the slide on the opposite side of the plane. A total of 37 passengers and crew escaped unscathed, including the 10 who were injured.

Two airport crash trucks then arrive and begin dousing the plane in firefighting foam as people continue to evacuate the plane. The video very notably edits out the moment, seen in the video below, at which Kuznetsov, the co-pilot, emerged from a cockpit window and then jumped to safety. He then climbed up one of the emergency slides to get back into the aircraft to help save the remaining people onboard. There have been conflicting reports about whether Evdokimov, the pilot, was also helping people inside at the time or was in need of saving himself.

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The investigators, who first filed their charges in October 2019, accuse Evdokimov of neglecting to follow established flight rules and procedures, resulting in him bringing the aircraft in at too steep an angle and causing the crash. Reports at the time indicated that the aircraft's pitch fluctuated significantly before the landing attempt. The pilot could face up to seven years in prison if convicted.

Evdokimov's legal team denies the charges and says that the electrical failure made the Superjet 100 difficult to control and that emergency personnel on the ground were slow to respond. Russian investigators claim they found no evidence of any aircraft malfunction and have rejected criticism of first responders, as well as air traffic controllers, at Sheremetyevo. The committee also looked into the possibility of poor maintenance and weather as contributing factors, but say they did not play a role, either. 

A picture of the remains of Aeroflot Flight 1492 after the crash., Russian Investigative Committee
Russian Investigative Committee

Last year, Aeroflot publicly denied that Evdokimov had violated company procedures in the setting of flaps and deployment of spoilers during the landing attempt. The company has also already agreed to pay compensation to both the surviving passengers and the families of those who died.

It's worth noting that the edit in the new video makes it impossible to determine the exact time between when the aircraft came to a stop and when the crash trucks first arrived on the scene. The video does further confirm that some passengers escaped with their luggage, which may have slowed down the evacuation process. Airlines around the world advise passengers to leave their bags behind in an emergency for this exact reason.

It's also worth noting that a Yakutia Airlines Superjet 100 had also gone skidding off the runway after its landing gear collapsed while landing at Yakutsk Airport in Oct. 10, 2018. The entire crew and all 87 passengers survived that accident, which also left the plane beyond repair. Ice on the runway was later blamed as a contributing factor

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However, in June 2019, Vladislav Filev, one of the owners of S7, Russia's second-biggest airline group and head of the Aerospace Subcommittee of the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, publicly questioned the Super 100's safety, specifically pointing to the two landing gear collapses and position of the aircraft's wing fuel tanks. "There are rumors that the [Yakutia] investigation found a fuel leakage [due to collapsed gear]," Filev said at the time. At the time of writing, the findings of any investigation into the Yakutsk crash do not appear to have been made public.

The Superjet 100, which made its first flight in 2008, has suffered four crashes, in total, including the one at Sheremetyevo and the one in Yakutsk. In 2012, one of the airliners struck Mount Salak in Indonesia during a demonstration flight and the following year another one, carrying an experimental registration, accidentally made a gear-up landing at Keflavík Airport in Iceland. Pilot error was determined to be the primary factor in both of those other two crashes.

Russia has heavily promoted the Superjet 100, the first clean-sheet airliner developed in the country after the fall of the Soviet Union, as an alternative to comparable western types. To date, Sukhoi has made more than 170 of the aircraft, which are now in service with 17 different airlines and government organizations in Russia and other countries. At least one Russian airline, RusLine, canceled its order for Superjet 100s after the Sheremetyevo crash.

More details and claims about the fiery accident at Sheremetyevo last year are likely to continue to emerge as Evdokimov case progresses through the Russian legal system.

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