Saratov Airlines Flight 703
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Saratov Airlines Flight 703 (6W703/SOV703) was a domestic passenger flight from Moscow Domodedovo Airport to Orsk Airport. On 11 February 2018, the aircraft serving the flight, an Antonov An-148-100B, crashed shortly after take-off, killing all 65 passengers and six crew members aboard.
RA-61704, the aircraft involved in the crash
|Date||11 February 2018|
|Summary||Unknown, under investigation|
|Site||near Stepanovskoye, Moscow Oblast|
|Aircraft type||Antonov An-148-100B|
|Flight origin||Domodedovo Airport, Moscow, Russia|
|Destination||Orsk Airport, Orsk, Russia|
The accident aircraft was an Antonov An-148-100B, registration RA-61704, MSN 27015040004, powered by two Progress D-436 engines. It first flew in May 2010 and was registered to Rossiya Airlines on 23 June 2010. It had been involved in two previous minor incidents in service; an engine was shut down on 28 July 2013 after it surged in flight, and it suffered a nose wheel failure on take-off on 23 August 2013. The aircraft had been leased by Saratov Airlines since 8 February 2017.
|Flight 703’s flight route.|
The aircraft crashed near Argunovo and Stepanovskoye, villages in Ramensky District, Moscow Oblast. The accident occurred six minutes after take-off from Domodedovo Airport, Moscow, on a domestic scheduled passenger flight to Orsk Airport, Russia, at 14:27 local time (11:27 UTC). There were 65 passengers, three of whom were children, and six crew on board; more than 60 passengers are believed to have been Orenburg Oblast residents. Two of the passengers were from Kazakhstan, and one from Switzerland. All the people on board were killed. Rescue workers reached the site 2.5 hours after the crash. According to a source inside the investigation, a few minutes before the crash the pilot of the aircraft told air traffic controllers about a malfunction and had to make an emergency landing in Zhukovsky. Eyewitnesses reported that the aircraft was in flames during its descent to earth. One black box was found.
The Russian prosecutor's office launched criminal proceedings for suspected violations of air traffic safety rules. They found reports that the airliner had been banned from operating international routes in 2015 and had resumed operation after it changed its policy in 2016.
The crash followed a year of zero fatalities on commercial passenger jets.
Passengers and crew
According to the flight manifest, Flight 703 was carrying 65 passengers and 6 crew members. Among the 65 passengers were three children. Most of the passengers were residents of Orenburg. The Russian Ministry of Emergency Situation stated that most of the passengers were Russian citizens, while citizens from Azerbaijan and Switzerland were also on board.
The pilot of the flight was identified by authorities as 51-year old Valery Ivanovich Gubanov. He graduated from Tambov Higher Military Aviation School. At the time of the crash, he had an accumulated total flying time of 5,000 hours, of which 2,800 were on the Antonov An-148. The co-pilot was identified as 35-year old Sergey Arsenovich Gambaryan.
The Russian Interstate Aviation Committee (Russian: Межгосударственный авиационный комитет, МАК) opened an investigation into the accident.. Russian President Vladimir Putin also set up a special commission to investigate the crash. Within the first few hours of the investigation, the Ministry of Transport announced several theories regarding the crash, including weather conditions and human factors.
In the initial hours after the crash, there were unconfirmed reports that Flight 703 had collided in mid-air with a Russian Post helicopter. Reports claimed that a wreckage of a helicopter was found near the main wreckage of Flight 703. This report was quickly refuted by Russian Post, stating that they do not have any helicopters. The Russian Government also dismissed the report, adding that no wreckage of a helicopter was found near the crash site of Flight 703. The collision theory was supported by the fact that mail with Russian Post emblem were found in the crash site. Officials later clarified that Flight 703 was carrying 20 kilograms of mail.
The crash site of Flight 703 was scattered in a wide area. Officials stated that the crash site area was no less than 1 kilometers, which added suspicion that the aircraft possibly had disintegrated in mid-flight. A bomb theory was put forward by several investigators. However, analysis from the crash site concluded that no traces of explosives were found in the wreckage.
The crash was caught by a surveillance camera in a nearby house. The footage showed that the aircraft slammed onto terrain and immediately exploded into flames. It also showed that the visibility in the area was poor.
The office of Saratov Airlines was raided in response to the disaster. The crash have also caused the Russian Emergency Ministry to discuss on whether the Antonov An-148 should be stopped temporarily from operating in Russia. BBC Russia reported that several Saratov Airlines' flights were stopped in response to the crash.
Russian RNS reported that the pilot of Flight 703, Captain Gubanov, had refused to undergo a de-icing procedure before the departure.
A crisis centre was set up at Orsk Airport, where relatives of the victims were transported. Officials in Orenburg declared that flights from Orsk would be cancelled and that normal airport operation will start on February 12. Monday, February 12 was designated as a day of mourning by the Orenburg Government.