S7 Airlines Flight 778

S7 Airlines Flight 778 (RU778 or SBI778) was an Airbus A310-300 passenger flight en route from Moscow to Irkutsk when it crashed upon landing at Irkutsk International Airport at 07:44 local time on July 9 2006 (July 8, 22:44 UTC). The plane overshot the runway, sliding over several hundred metres of wet runway and grass. It crashed through a concrete barricade, hit a group of private garages and burst into flames. Television pictures showed smoking ruins of the Airbus with only the tail section intact. Local firefighters from five different services required two hours to extinguish the blaze.

There were 193 passengers and 10 crew members aboard . Seventy six passengers and three flight attendants survived the crash, leaving 124 dead. Nearly 60 people were taken to a hospital, some with critical injuries, but others managed to escape with few injuries and 15 were able to continue their journeys. Some survivors said they owed their lives to a flight attendant who managed to open the emergency exit in the rear of the aircraft.

A spokeswoman for the ITAR-Tass news agency in Russia, Irina Andrianova said "The aircraft veered off the runway on landing. It was travelling at a terrific speed."

The agency also reported that many children were among the passengers who were flying to a holiday on Lake Baikal, near Irkutsk, about 4,200 km (2,604 miles) east of Moscow. Besides Russian citizens, who were the majority of passengers, there were also two Polish tourists travelling to Mongolia via Irkutsk. Having been in the tail section, they managed to escape the plane unassisted, one injuring a leg.. There were twelve other non-Russians on board, three from China, three from Belarus and two each from Germany, Moldavia, and South Korea.

Among the dead were Sergey Koryakov, regional head of the FSB, and Mariya Rasputina, daughter of writer Valentin Rasputin.

News agencies reported Russian Transport Minister Igor Levitin as saying the pilots advised air traffic controllers they had landed successfully, but that radio contact then broke off suddenly. Speaking before flying from Moscow to Irkutsk, Levitin was also quoted as saying the runway was wet after rain.

Causes of the accident

According to the preliminary results of the investigation, the accident was caused by the left engine thrust reverser's failure to deploy (disputed - see below section A). The thrust reverser in question was known to malfunction prior to the accident. When the pilot attempted to slow down the plane by deploying the right engine thrust reverser, the left engine was inadvertently switched into takeoff mode, causing the plane to accelerate (disputed - see below section A). It veered off the runway and hit the concrete barricade at the speed in excess of 100 km/h (62 mph).

Witnesses report that the previous day an S7 A-310 aircraft was taken off the route to Chelyabinsk due to technical failures, but it is unknown whether this was the same aircraft.

Airbus said the aircraft involved in the accident had registered number , previously N812PA and MSN (Manufacturer Serial Number) 442. It was delivered new in June 1987 to Pan American World Airways and later to Delta Air Lines after Pan Am's bankruptcy in 1991. Prior to service in S7, Airbus Industrie and Aeroflot had flown those airlines. It had accumulated more than 52,000 flight hours in more than 10,000 flights. It was powered by Pratt & Whitney PW4152 engines.

According to Airbus, the aircraft was properly maintained. The most recent A Check, or maintenance check, on the aircraft was on June 1, Sibir said. A C Check, which involves a more thorough overhaul, was carried out July 12 in Frankfurt last year.

Revised accident Section A: According to the final results of the investigation, the accident was not caused by the left engine thrust reverser's non-deployment due to a Minimum Equipment List (MEL)authorized reverser deactivation - The thrust reverser in question was inoperative in line with MEL requirements prior to the accident.

When the pilot slowed down the plane by using wheel braking and deploying the righthand engine thrust reverser, the lefthand engine throttle lever was inadvertently advanced, causing the plane to not de-accelerate as per a normal landing. The crew was unaware the thrust lever had been inadvertently advanced until late in the accident cycle. The aircraft veered off the runway and hit a concrete barricade at the speed of approximately 100 km/h (62 mph).

A preliminary report was issued by the Russian MAK the week of September 25, 2006, blaming the accident on pilot error, and finding that there was no problem with the engines or the aircraft.


Report released - May 2007


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