Pilots Blamed for Crash that Killed Russian Hockey Team

Investigation shows the brakes were accidentally activated on takeoff.

Yak-42

Yak-42

Yak-42

Investigators on Wednesday blamed pilot error and improper training for the crash of a Yak-42 on Sept. 7 that killed 44 people, including the entire Lokomotiv Yaroslavl hockey team.

According to Russia’s Interstate Aviation Committee, the jet crashed on takeoff after one of the pilots accidentally activated the brakes and then jerked the yoke back as the airplane struggled to lift off. The crew reportedly realized the brakes were on in time to safely abort the takeoff, but continued with the takeoff nonetheless, a mistake investigators say may have occurred due to pressure from company management to cut costs and avoid flight delays.

According to the lead investigator, the 102-knot rotation speed of the jet that day was about 11 knots slower than what was required to provide proper lift for the 54-ton airplane. The jet rolled past the end of the nearly 10,000-foot-long runway and almost 1,500 feet on the grass before it lifted off, pitching sharply up and crashing into the side of the Volga River.

The committee said the aircraft owner, Yak-Service, failed to properly train the pilots in the Yak-42. Russia’s federal aviation authority shut down the airline after the high-profile crash.

In addition to the other multiple causes, investigators cited the fact that one of the pilots was under the influence of the sedative Phenobarbital at the time of the crash. They said he suffered from a neurological disorder called polyneuropathy, which could have played a role in the accident.