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Overloading caused Il-76 fatal accident

VLADIMIR KARNOZOV AND PAUL DUFFY / MOSCOW

Investigations into second major civil air disaster of the year in Russia highlight incidence of rule-breaking

Investigations into Russia's second serious air transport crash of the year have revealed the extent of illegal practices in the country.

Overloading by up to 13t was the principal cause of the 14 July crash involving a Rus Aviation Ilyushin Il-76 freighter at Chalovksky air force base near Moscow, according to the GSGA, the Russian state service of civil aviation (Flight International, 24-30 July). Extensive falsification of aircraft logs was also discovered.

The crew had reported a ramp weight of 188.5t but crash investigators believe the actual weight was over 200t. After investigating the accident, in which all ten people on board died when the aircraft (RA76588) ploughed into trees just after take-off, the authorities are set to tighten control over operators of Il-76 freighters. GSGA chief Aleksandr Neradko says there will be a complete audit of the Il-76 fleet, including those in the Russian air force. This will result in a comprehensive database of the aircraft, its engines and auxiliary power units.

Neradko says inspections of airframe and engine technical logs to check their authenticity will be among other measures taken.

The crash was caused by a combination of piloting errors and freight overload, say the investigators. Errors included late retraction of the landing gear and early change of the stabiliser trim setting. The aircraft crossed the aerodrome fence at an altitude of only 72ft (22m) and hit trees. Late gear retraction was due to intercom noise which made the captain's command indecipherable, while the stabiliser trim change is a typical action by crews practising take-offs in overloaded Il-76s.

The crew had rotated at 140kt (260km/h) instead of the 127kt correct speed for the 190t maximum take-off weight (MTOW). The investigation also found that one of the D-30KP engines was operated illegally, having been withdrawn from military service. The engine was restored to working condition at a repair station in Staraya Russia, and technical logs were falsified. The airline has previously been found using "questionable engines". Shortly after the crash, the GSGA withdrew Rus Aviation's operating licence.

Meanwhile, following recent revelations of the falsification of pilot qualifications, Russian civil aviation leaders are to have talks with president Vladimir Putin (Flight International, 28 August - 3 September). Topics on the agenda include leasing, fleet renewal, and whether the GSGA should remain a section of the transport ministry.

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