Ukrainian Il-76 crashes into sea off UAE

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A Ukrainian Ilyushin Il-76 freighter crashed last night shortly after take-off from Ras Al Khaimah International Airport in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

The Il-76, operated by Kiev-based ATI Aircompany, departed the airport on a cargo service at 23:00 local time. It was headed for Nikolayev in the Ukraine with eight people on board, says director of civil aviation at the airport, Mohammed Jassim Darwish.

He says that 10min after take-off, the aircraft crashed into the sea and a search for survivors and wreckage is continuing. None of the eight on board has yet been found.

The crash site is about 13km (7nm) from the airport and 0.8km (0.4nm) from the coast.

Ras Al Khaimah is one of the smaller Emirates within the UAE, situated north of Sharjah and south of Oman. Each Emirate has its own civil aviation department and international airport.

The Soviet-era Il-76 four-engined freighter is the equivalent of the US Lockheed C-141 Starlifter, although, unlike its US counterpart, it has found its way to airline as well as air force service.

Most Il-76s are powered by the MKB (Soloviev) D-30 but a stretched later version has the Perm PS-90. Its maximum payload is about 40,000kg and it is about 47m long and has a wingspan of 50.5m.

According to Airclaims Case, ATI Aircompany operates five of the type, built between 1984 and 1988. All are powered by D-30 engines.

Reports from Dubai quote senior airport officials as saying that the aircraft belonged to the Azerbaijan Hava Yollari airline, but an executive in that carrier's international relations department says from Baku that the carrier only books space on the Ukrainian Il-76.

"This is a Ukrainian airline and it is their crew," says the executive, who will not give his name. "We used to operate the Il-76 as a joint venture with a Ukrainian airline on this routing, but we only take space now."

An ATI Aircompany employee says from Kiev that senior managers are now at civil aviation department headquarters in the Ukrainian capital, and says that staff are to be sent to the UAE as soon as possible. The employee, who will not give her name, will only confirm that one of the carrier's aircraft had crashed.