The pilots of a Yak-42 that crashed in Russia last year and killed 44 including the Russian hockey team Lokomotiv were flying illegally, Russian investigators said this week.
According to Vladimir Markin, a spokesman for Russia’s accident investigation agency, the pilots had not undergone the appropriate training needed to safely fly the charter jet and were flying with “falsified documents.”
The head of the company that undertook the ill-fated flight, Vadim Timofeyev, now faces criminal charges and up to seven years in prison as a result of alleged misconduct associated with the event.
The high profile accident occurred on takeoff from Tunoshna, Russia, last September, and drew renewed attention to the country’s notoriously poor aviation accident record, which last year was nearly three times that of the worldwide average.
Investigators determined one of the pilots accidentally activated the brakes and continued to pull back on the yoke while on the roll as the jet struggled to gain lift. The crew reportedly realized the brakes were on within time to abort the takeoff, but chose not to do so, a decision many have linked to potential pressure from management to avoid flight delays and mishaps.
The three-engine jet eventually did rotate after rolling off the end of the runway and well into the grass, only to pitch up sharply before crashing into the river below.
Investigators noted that one of the pilots was under the influence of a sedative drug at the time of the crash, a factor they say may have affected his performance.
The charter service behind the flight, Yak-Service, was closed down by Russian officials in the wake of the accident.