29 July 2002

15 killed after aircraft explodes over Moscow

By Ben Aris in Moscow

A Russian Il-86 plane crashed after takeoff at Moscow's domestic airport yesterday, killing 15 of the 16 people on board, a day after the Ukrainian air show disaster.

The Pulkovo Airlines plane was on a "technical flight" to its home airport in St Petersburg. There were no passengers.

Witnesses said the plane climbed a few hundred feet from Sheremetyevo I airport, which services domestic flights, before bursting into flames. It crashed in a forest near a main road.

Rescue workers from the Emergencies Ministry pulled two stewardesses from the
wreckage. They were taken to hospital in a critical condition and one later died.

The remaining four crew members and 10 service staff were said to be dead at the scene. Initial reports said two civilians on the ground died.

The Il-86, one of the workhorses of the Russian fleet, has been in service for more than 20 years and can carry 350 people.

Russia's safety record on international flights is good, but the crash renews concerns about domestic routes. Some planes run by regional carriers are near the end of their useful lives.

A mid-air collision over Germany between a Bashkirian Airlines passenger jet earlier this month killed 45 Russian children flying to Spain for a holiday. Last July a Tu-154 crashed outside Irkutsk, Siberia, killing all 145 people on board.