Video has emerged of the catastrophic landing on 23 September of an Ilyushin Il-76 transport jet at Mali’s Gao International airport.
Details are still emerging about the crash in the West African country, which killed an unknown number of people and destroyed the aircraft.
However, newly disclosed video purportedly shows the Il-76, believed to have been operated by Mali’s air force, failing to stop after touching down on the runway at Gao.
Posted by air accident database Aviation Safety Network (ASN) to social media site X, the video shows shows a seemingly normal touch down by the Soviet-era transport jet. It landed on Gao’s 2,500m (8,202ft)-long runway 06L, according to Airport-data.com.
Filmed from behind the aircraft, the video shows puffs of white smoke when the landing gear contacts the runway. But the jet appears to have landed relatively far along runway 06L, not near its landing threshold. After touching down, the Il-76 does not appear to significantly slow down, and it crosses the far edge of the runway within 12s.
Analysis of the footage suggests the jet landed in the final third of the runway, which would leave it about 800m to stop. That figure is supported by other visual hints in the crash footage.
The Il-76 has an official length of 46.6m (152ft). The transport attempting to land in Gao appears to travel the equivalent distance of approximately 10-15 lengths of the aircraft body before exiting the runway. By that estimation, the Il-76 would have had just under 700m to cut speed.
How much braking distance the jet required remains unknown and dependent on various factors, including its payload. But for comparison reasons, Boeing’s C-17 Globemaster, a four-engined jet transport similarly sized to the Il-76, requires 914m to land, according to Boeing.
Upon crossing the edge of Runway 06L, the Il-76 careens across a dirt field for several seconds, kicking up a large dust cloud. Although the aircraft is largely obscured, its tail pitches up as the Il-76 apparently drops into a ravine.
The cargo jet explodes moments later, with a large fireball and black smoke rising from the gulch.
While the footage gives some indication of what transpired, ASN notes that details remain unconfirmed, including the status of the Il-76’s crew, what passengers or cargo were aboard and the number of fatalities. ASN lists the Il-76 as having tail number TZ-98T and being registered to the Mali air force.
The Bureau of Aircraft Accident Archives, a database operated from Geneva, also says the aircraft has that tail number. Additionally, it says the Il-76 might have been transferred to the Mali air force by Russian mercenary organisation Wagner Group as little as one week before the crash.
Media outlets have likewise linked the Il-76 to the Wagner Group, but such ties remains unconfirmed.
Wagner has been heavily involved in the troubled sub-Saharan country, which was the focus of a nearly decade-long military action by France to combat anti-government Islamic extremist groups – including the Islamic State and al-Qaeda terrorist organisations.
Paris withdrew forces after the civilian government in Bamako was ousted by a military coup in 2021. Wagner, which for years served as a proxy force for Moscow, was invited to Mali by the new military authority to replace the departing French.
A separate UN peacekeeping force is currently withdrawing from Mali amid a protracted surge in violent attacks.
Wagner’s status in Mali and its operations in Africa more broadly remain uncertain after the group’s leader died in August when a business jet he was travelling in crashed in Russia.
Yevgeny Prigozhin, who oversaw Wagner’s global mercenary operations on behalf of Russian president Vladimir Putin, had a falling out with Moscow, and in June led a mutiny against Russian military leaders in protest of the Kremlin’s bloody war strategy in Ukraine.
See video of the Il-76 crash in Gao, Mali here: