A ROW HAS broken out between the Russian air force and navy over responsibility for the crashes of three Sukhoi Su-27 fighters of the Russian Knights aerobatic team. The aircraft hit a hill on approach to Cam Ranh air base in Vietnam on 12 December, killing four pilots.

Air force Commander-in-chief Col Gen Piotr Deinekin acknowledges that the main cause of the accident was the violation of the approach pattern by the crew of the Ilyushin Il-76, which was leading the formation of five Su-27s.

The Il-76 descended to 2,000ft (600m) instead of 5,000ft (the height specified as safe for Cam Ranh) to obtain visual contact of the ground under heavy weather. Deinekin, has reprimanded Russian Navy Pacific fleet airfield controllers, who guided the formation. He also says that the accident might not have happened if all navigation aids at the airfield were operational.

The Commander of the Pacific Fleet has retaliated by saying that the air force had not filed an appropriate flight plan and that the naval staff had not been expecting the aircraft to arrive.

Source: Flight International