Drunken navigator shares blame in Russian jet crash


The carelessness of a “lightly” drunken navigator contributed to a plane crash that killed 47 people in Russia in June, investigators said in a report released.

The Tu-134 jet ploughed into treetops, overturned and slammed into the ground while trying to land in fog at the airport in the northern city of Petrozavodsk, the first in a string of Russian air accidents in recent months.

In its report, the Interstate Aviation Committee said the plane crashed because the crew had failed to abort the landing even though the pilot could not see lights and other markers on the ground as the jet descended, Reuters reports.

That error followed others made by crew members including the 50-year-old navigator, who “conducted the flight in a state of light alcoholic intoxication,” the report said.

He had a blood alcohol content of 0.081 percent, it said — just over the legal limit for driving in Britain and many U.S. states, although Russia has a zero tolerance policy for drivers.

The 45-year-old pilot was inclined to trust his longer-serving navigator, who had 25 years’ experience and had logged more than 13,000 hours on Tu-134 flights, said the Committee, which serves several ex-Soviet republics.

The cockpit recording showed that the navigator displayed “heightened activity” in guiding the pilot’s actions minutes before the crash, saying: “Turn it faster, come on!” and assuring him: “I’ll bring you in just right.”

The navigator failed to tell the pilot to look out of the windscreen and search for markers at 140 metres (460 feet), and then failed to warn him at 110 metres (360 feet) that he must decide whether to land or pull up, the report said.

The Tu-134 hit the treetops seconds later and then crashed on a roadside near the landing strip. Five of the 52 people aboard survived.

The June 20 crash was followed by two crashes of smaller Antonov An-12 planes in July and August, which killed a total of 18 people. Then on September 7 a Yak-42 jet carrying players, coaches and staff of the Russian ice hockey team Lokomotiv crashed after takeoff from the city of Yaroslavl, killing 44 of the 45 people aboard.