Russian investigators believe the fire on a Tupolev Tu-204 freighter which broke out in Hangzhou in January last year started in the aircraft’s cockpit.

The aircraft, operated by Russian carrier Aviastar-Tu, was being prepared for a service to Novosibirsk with 22t of freight.

Eight personnel were on board the twinjet including three flightcrew, three reserve crew members, and two technicians.

It was being towed to an engine-start point with its auxiliary power unit operating when the fire broke out, says the Interstate Aviation Committee in a newly-published safety review.

“The fire zone has been identified, which is located in the cockpit,” it adds.

tu-204 fire-c-MAK

Source: Interstate Aviation Committee

Aviastar-Tu’s aircraft was destroyed by the fire which broke out during towing

Chinese authorities are leading the inquiry, with Russian representatives assigned to support the probe.

St Petersburg’s university of the state fire service has carried out analysis of the origin and physical spread of the fire through the aircraft, and sent its conclusions to the Chinese investigators.

Three flightcrew members were seriously injured, says the Interstate Aviation Committee, and the investigation has resulted in recommendations to check crew oxygen systems on Tu-204s and Tu-214s to ensure the “absence of leaks”, and to examine the general condition of oxygen units and lines.

The fire was extinguished by emergency services at the airport, without its reaching the fuel tanks.

But the twinjet (RA-64032) suffered extensive damage during the accident. The aircraft, powered by Aviadvigatel PS-90A engines, was originally delivered to Perm Airlines in 2002.