September 19, 2011
A Russian flight navigator was drunk on vodka when the plane he was guiding crashed and killed 47 people, including a team of scientists who had been helping Iran with nuclear secrets, it has been revealed.
The RusAir jet slammed into a motorway near Petrozavodsk airport just minutes before it was to land on June 20 – only five people survived.
Now Russia’s aviation authority has said alcohol and heavy fog both contributed to the fatal incident after ruling out a technical malfunction on the Tu-134 plane.
In its report the Interstate Aviation Committee said cooperation among the crew during the disastrous landing attempt was poor, with the pilot handing control to the drunk navigator, while the co-pilot was effectively excluded.
On some models of the Tu-134, such as the 31-year-old one that crashed, there is a navigator position in the glass-covered nose of the plane.
But the report said a major factor in the crash was: ‘The use during the flight of a navigator in a light level of alcoholic intoxication.’
On Sunday, state television channel Rossiya said experts believe the navigator had consumed about a glass of vodka shortly before the flight took off from Moscow.
Conspiracy theories about the doomed flight started after it emerged the five Russian scientists had worked at the controversial Bushehr nuclear plant on the Iranian Persian Gulf.
Due to open this year, the nuclear facility has been worked on since 1975, and has raised international concerns that it may be used to covertly build nuclear weapons for Iran.
But despite the controversial project, Russia still believe that it was poor weather and pilot error that caused the crash rather than foul play.