An aging passenger plane just crashed in Russia's far-east region with 28 people aboard on Tuesday, and experts fear that everyone on the doomed aircraft, including one child, has died.
The plane was flying from the regional capital of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky to Palana, a smaller town in northwestern Kamchatka, but then air traffic controllers lost contact with the aircraft just before 3:00 PM local time (11:00 PM EDT), according to Russia's emergency ministry, in an initial report from Al Jazeera.
As of writing, it seems no one survived the crash.
The crashed plane was in operation since 1982
Twenty-two passengers and six crew members were aboard the Antonov An-26 double-engine turboprop aircraft, which has remained in operation since 1982, under the supervision of its owner company, Kamchatka Aviation Enterprise. Most passengers were residents of Palana, a small town with a population of 2,900 people close to the Sea of Okhotsk. In other words, this will be a deeply felt loss.
This comes on the heels of another recent crash of a Boeing 737 cargo jet off the coast of Hawaii, but that incident only involved two pilots, who were both rescued by the U.S. Coast Guard. The Antonov an-26 that went down on Tuesday was thought to have smashed into a cliff when attempted a landing in poor conditions, and low visibility. Russia's civil aviation authority later confirmed the location of the plane's crash site, once the emergency ministry had deployed a helicopter and dispatched teams to seek out the lost plane on foot.
Sadly, tragedies will continue after the COVID-19 crisis
In recent years, aviation standards in Russia have improved, but little can be done to prevent every accident, especially when they involve aging planes in sparsely populated areas of the country. The Antonov an-26 was developed when Russia was still the Soviet Union, and it remains a part of both civilian and military flights in several countries, but has suffered dozens of crashes resulting in deaths since it began its initial flights roughly 50 years ago. A similar plane called the Antonov-28 crashed into the Kamchatka forest in 2012, killing 10 people. And investigators later confirmed that both pilots were inebriated at the time of the crash. But whether the pilots of the recently crashed plane were also drunk remains to be seen.
There are many reasons for a plane to fall from the sky and potentially cause deaths. For this one, the age of the plane was probably a crucial factor, which is a common feature of aircraft crashes. Last week, the Boeing 737 cargo jet was several decades old, which means it, too, may have experienced one too many flights to stay airborne. While this doesn't mean that veteran planes are to be avoided, it is regrettable that the 28 people aboard the Antonov an-28 in Russia lost their lives after surviving the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
This was a developing story and was regularly updated as new information became available.