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2011 Lokomotiv Yaroslavl air disaster

The Lokomotiv Yaroslavl air disaster occurred at 4:05 P.M. Moscow Time on Wednesday, September 7, 2011, when Yak-Service Flight 9633, a Yak-Service Yakovlev Yak-42, carrying the players and coaching staff of the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl professional ice hockey team, crashed near the Russian city of Yaroslavl. The aircraft ran off the runway before lifting off, struck a tower mast, caught fire and crashed 2 km (1.2 mi) from Tunoshna Airport at the Volga River bank. Of the 45 on board, 43 died at the crash site.[1] One of the two rescued from the wreck, Alexander Galimov, died five days later in hospital.[2] Only the avionics flight engineer, Alexander Sizov, survived.

Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, a member of the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL), Russia's top ice hockey league, was on its way to Minsk, Belarus, to start the 2011–12 season.[2] All players from the main roster and four from the youth team were on board the aircraft. Because of the tragedy, Lokomotiv Yaroslavl chose to cancel their participation in the 2011–12 KHL season.[3] The club instead participated in the 2011–12 season of the Russian Major League (VHL), the second-ranked ice hockey league in Russia after the KHL, starting in December 2011, and were eligible for the VHL playoffs.[4][5] The KHL temporarily suspended its season-opening game already in progress and postponed the start of the season by five days.

Investigation of the crash focused on pilot error and technical failures. An investigative committee was set up which examined Yak-Service's records, conditions at the airport, plane wreckage and flight recorder data. Simulations of the plane takeoff were held to compare with recovered flight recorder data. Testing determined that pilot error was the cause as a braking force was found to have been applied by the chief pilot during takeoff.[6] The investigating committee released its report at a press conference on November 2, 2011. According to Alexei Morozov, chief of the investigative commission: "the immediate cause of the Yak-42 plane crash was the plane crew's erroneous actions, namely the pilot stepping on the brake pedals before raising the nose wheel because of the wrong position of the feet on the brake platforms during takeoff."[7] It was later revealed that the pilots had used falsified documents to obtain permission to fly the aircraft, and that they lacked the training necessary to fly the Yak-42. In addition, the co-pilot had undergone treatment for a nerve disease and was forbidden to fly. Investigators say he did not feel his foot on the brake, leading to the crash.[8]


  • Crash 1
  • Aircraft 2
  • Lokomotiv Yaroslavl 3
  • Reaction 4
  • Investigation 5
  • List of passengers and crew 6
    • Hockey players 6.1
    • Team staff 6.2
    • Flight crew 6.3
  • See also 7
  • References 8
  • External links 9


The Yakovlev Yak-42D involved in the accident is seen in 2006 while in operation for Aero Rent. The Aero Rent decal is below the much bigger Proton decal.

Weather conditions at Tunoshna Airport on September 7, 2011, were described as good, with a wind from 360° at 11 kilometres per hour (6.8 mph), a visibility of 10 kilometres (6.2 mi), with significant stratocumulus clouds at a lower limit of 990 metres (3,250 ft).[9] The temperature was 17.8 °C (64.0 °F).[9] The Yak-Service Yak-42D aircraft entered Runway 05/23 at taxiway 5, 300 metres (980 ft) from the start of the runway. Runway 05/23 is 3,000 metres (9,800 ft) long, leaving 2,700 metres (8,900 ft) for take-off. The aircraft was cleared for take-off. It accelerated to an estimated 230 kilometres per hour (140 mph) but failed to lift off from the runway.[9] The plane ran off past the end of the runway for a distance of 400 metres (1,300 ft) before it lifted off from the ground.[9] From that point, the plane struck a beacon tower mast located about 450 metres (1,480 ft) from the end of the runway.[10] The plane did not reach a flying altitude, never exceeding an estimated 6 metres (20 ft) from the ground.[9]

After it struck the tower mast, the plane veered left and crashed on the riverbank of the Tunoshna River, 200 metres (660 ft) from where it joins the Volga River, losing its tail assembly on impact while the front part of the jet disintegrated.[10] At the impact site, the tail section remained in the water, while the pieces of the fuselage were on dry land.[11] The location of the wreckage was approximately 2 kilometres (1.2 mi) from the end of the runway.[12]

Witness reports described the plane as "bursting into flames" after hitting the mast.[13] The airplane's direction changed after hitting the mast, described as "rolling to the left" and then the plane impacted the ground.[14] Another witness report described that the plane's engines went silent moments before the crash.[15] Another report indicated that the plane hit some trees before it crashed.[16] Another report indicated that the plane broke into two before impacting.[11] A security surveillance camera mounted on the mast recorded the approach of the airplane at high speed, running off the end of the runway, only metres above the ground, the nose pulling up moments before impacting the mast.[17] Debris from the aircraft was found just past the mast site, continuing from that point to the crash site.[14] The plane's crew did not report any technical problems to the airport controllers.[18]


The aircraft, a Yakovlev Yak-42D, construction number 4520424305017, was first flown in 1993; and after operations with several airlines joined the Yak-Service fleet, which was the operator of the aircraft when it crashed.[19] Oleg Panteleyev, head of analytics at AviaPort, notes that the Yak-42 was designed with a 36-year service life, and this airframe, based upon the number of hours flown, and the number of takeoffs and landings, still had 60% of its service life remaining. According to Panteleyev, in civil aviation, there is no such thing as an "old aircraft" and that instead it is airworthiness which determines whether the aircraft is suitable to operate.[20] According to Deputy Transport Minister Valery Okulov, one of the three engines on the aircraft had been replaced a month prior to the crash.[21] The aircraft was due to be taken out of service at the end of 2011 for a scheduled major overhaul.[22]

In 2009, Yak-Service was investigated by the European Commission, following airworthiness and air safety concerns. Russian authorities imposed restrictions on the carrier, and made Yak-Service subject to ramp inspections to international standards.[23] In 2010, Yak-Service had been banned from making flights into European airspace. The Russian transport ministry on May 18, 2010, prohibited Yak-Service from flying into Europe. On August 11, 2010, the operating restrictions were removed by Russian authorities. The European Commission, however, was not satisfied that mandatory equipment was present on all Yak-Service aircraft, and banned two of the company's Yakovlev Yak-40s from operating in European airspace.[24]

Lokomotiv Yaroslavl

At the time of the crash, Lokomotiv Yaroslavl was one of the top ice hockey teams in Russia, originally established in 1959. The team won the Russian Open Championship in 1997, 2002 and 2003,[25] and were finalists in 2008 and 2009, making it to the third round of the playoffs in four straight seasons. Lokomotiv lost in the 2010 KHL Western Conference Finals 4–3 to HC MVD, and lost in the 2011 KHL Western Conference Finals 4–2 to Atlant. Several players were about to make their debut with the team, including former National Hockey League (NHL) players Ruslan Salei[26] and Kārlis Skrastiņš.[27] Also set to make their coaching debuts were former NHL players Igor Korolev and Brad McCrimmon.[28]


People lighting candles at a makeshift memorial outside Arena 2000 in Yaroslavl.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, who had been on his way to Yaroslavl for the Yaroslavl Global Policy Forum, sent his condolences to the families of those killed in the crash,[29] and visited the crash site along with Governor of Yaroslavl Oblast Sergey Vakhrukov.[2][30] René Fasel, president of the International Ice Hockey Federation, called the crash "the darkest day in the history of our sport."[31] Manchester United chief executive David Gill wrote to the Russian side to offer support and sympathy after hearing of the tragedy, which bore unsettling similarities to the Munich air disaster which cost 23 United players, staff and journalists their lives in 1958.[32] Yaroslavl announced a three-day period of mourning from Friday September 9, 2011 to Sunday September 11, 2011.[18]

Upon hearing the news of the accident, KHL officials stopped and postponed the Salavat Yulaev UfaAtlant Moscow Oblast game already in progress.[33] The game was suspended in the second period, and KHL president Alexander Medvedev addressed the audience at the game, informing them of the details of the tragedy. Medvedev promised "We will do our best to keep the high-level hockey in Yaroslavl." A minute of silence was held and the audience exited the arena. The two teams left to go to a nearby church.[34] The following day in Minsk, at the arena where Yaroslavl was to play its first game of the season, a requiem Mass was celebrated to honor the dead.[35] The KHL resumed its 2011–12 season on September 12, 2011, with seven games. All games were preceded with a minute of silence.[36]

Early into New York Islanders training camp, goaltender Evgeni Nabokov, having played the previous season in the KHL, was deeply saddened by the news and was quoted as saying
"I think I knew 80 percent of the team. Either I played with them or I played against them. You see each other in different tournaments. Some of them you're really close with, or some them you just say hi and have a couple of laughs with. [...] It struck me when I found out. I was at breakfast and reading the Russian newspapers and all of a sudden, it popped up. It's almost like you don't want to believe something like that. It's tough. You have chills and you just hope that the families will find the strength to fight through something like that."[37]

On Saturday, September 10, 2011, memorial services for the players were held in countries where the players came from. The biggest services which were held in Arena 2000, the home arena of Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, were attended by thousands of mourners as well as Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. Local police determined the crowd number at Lokomotiv's home arena to be roughly 100,000.[38][39] Lokomotiv executives met to discuss the team's future. In the discussion, team president Yuri Yakovlev announced that Lokomotiv would not participate in the 2011–12 KHL season.[40] In Sweden, over 10,000 relatives and fans of HV71 attended Kinnarps Arena, HV71's home arena, to mourn Swedish goaltender Stefan Liv who died in the crash.[41] On September 12, 2011, after the death of Alexander Galimov, Lokomotiv Yaroslavl marketing manager Ivjiny Chuev said that another memorial, this time specifically for Galimov, would be held on September 13, 2011.[42] The Dallas Stars, the team which Kārlis Skrastiņš played for the previous two seasons, honored their former teammate by placing a decal with Skrastiņš's number (37) on the helmets of their players.[43] Josef Vašíček's former NHL team, the Carolina Hurricanes, wore a commemorative patch on their jerseys during the season.[44] The Detroit Red Wings wore a patch on their 2011–2012 uniforms with the initials of Ruslan Salei, who had played for Detroit during the previous season. The Red Wings also had ties to Brad McCrimmon, who had played for the team and been an assistant coach, and Stefan Liv, who was drafted by Detroit and played for their minor-league team. Furthermore, the Anaheim Ducks embroidered Salei's number (#24) on their jerseys for the season. The New Jersey Devils wore a commemorative patch on their jerseys honoring former Devils players Karel Rachunek and Alexander Vasyunov. The St. Louis Blues also held a memorial ceremony for former players Pavol Demitra and Igor Korolev before their 8 Nov game against the Chicago Blackhawks. The Blues players also wore a special '38' patch on their helmets in honour. The St. Louis Blues goaltender, Jaroslav Halak also had his 2011–12 goaltending mask made with a tribute to Demitra on the backplate.

On September 11, 2011, President Medvedev ordered the grounding of all airlines "which are not adequately able to ensure passengers' safety." A deadline of November 15, 2011, was set to put into place "measures be developed to stop Russian air carriers' activities if they are not able to provide safe flights." Measures to bring aircraft up to international standards were to be sped up and the installation of new radio beacons to the latest COSPAS-SARSAT standard. Fines for violations of the regulations are to be increased.[45] On September 21, 2011, Yak-Service had its operating licence revoked by Rosaviatsiya after an audit of flight operations of the airline and as a result of the crash.[46]

Mario Lemieux joins Evgeni Malkin and Alexander Ovechkin for the ceremonial puck drop before 13 October 2011 game between the Penguins and Capitals.

On September 28, 2011, the German Ice Hockey Federation announced that it would retire the No. 20 jersey of Robert Dietrich in Team Germany.[47] 13 October 2011 game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals, which featured Russian ice hockey players Alexander Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin, was dedicated to Lokomotiv Yaroslavl. The teams wore commemorative Lokomotiv patches. All jerseys were autographed by the players and auctioned to raise funds for the families of those who died in the crash.[48] On March 12, 2012, the Latvian Ice Hockey Federation announced that it would retire the No. 7 jersey of Kārlis Skrastiņš in Team Latvia.[49] On March 24, 2012, the Dallas Stars held a pre-game ceremony with Skrastins' family and announced a trust fund for Skrastins' children.[50] Similarly, Czech Ice Hockey Association decided to retire Czech Republic men's national ice hockey team jersey numbers in honor of its three late players. No. 4 of Karel Rachunek, No. 15 of Jan Marek, and No. 63 of Josef Vasicek are taken from circulation ever since.


The Interstate Aviation Committee (MAK), in accordance with Russian legislation, opened an investigation into the circumstances and causes of the accident.[9] Russian aviation authorities suspended all flights with the aircraft type after the accident pending checks of other existing aircraft of the same type.[51]

The flight recorders were recovered on September 8, 2011, according to Russian Minister of Transport Igor Levitin, and sent to Moscow for examination.[52] The fuel supply used to refuel the aircraft was quarantined, and samples taken for analysis to determine if substandard fuel was used.[53] The Investigative Committee commented that pilot error and mechanical malfunction were considered the two most likely causes for the crash.[53] One question to be investigated is why the pilots continued to attempt the take-off, rather than use emergency braking.[53] The pilots were experienced. Captain Andrei Solontsev had 6,900 hours of flight experience, 1,500 on Yak-42s, and first officer Sergei Zhuravlev 15,000 hours, although only 420 on the Yak-42, according to Okulov.[53]

Conflicting opinions were given on the ability of the Yak-42 to take off with fewer than three engines operating. According to a report quoting the Federal Air Transport Agency, the plane can land and fly on two engines, but cannot take off if one engine shuts off.[54] According to Shavkat Umarov, head of the Tatar branch of Rosaviatsiya in Kazan, the Yak-42 can take off using two engines.[55]

According to the Technical Commission of the MAK, preliminary analysis of the flight recorders indicated that the plane's stabilizer was set to 8.7 degrees "nose up" and its wing flaps were in the take-off position of 20 degrees. The engines were functioning until "collision with obstacles."[56] According to Russia's aviation authority, the flight recorders gave no indication of sub-standard fuel.[38] An analysis of the fuel in the fuel tanks at Tunoshna Airport showed that it met requirements for aviation fuel.[57] After the crash, the airport ordered that planes use fuel from elsewhere during the investigation.[57]

The Technical Commission of the MAK released further findings on September 12, 2011. Among the findings:

  • the engines continued working until the crash.
  • the weather was ruled out as a cause of the crash.
  • the crew carried out a check of all flight controls of the aircraft, including the elevator. The flight control surfaces responded as intended.
  • take-off weight was less than the maximum allowable for take-off.
  • the plane had 14 tons of fuel on board, of which 8 tons was from the airport in Yaroslavl.
  • prior to the takeoff, the stabilizer and flaps were set to takeoff position.

The committee has referred the study of the flight recorders and plane operation data to other research centers. The Technical Commission has established contacts with the investigation authorities of the countries whose citizen were on board: Czech Republic, Germany, Slovakia, Sweden, Latvia and Canada.[56]

On September 14, 2011, a report in the newspaper

  • (Russian) Investigation into the crash – Interstate Aviation Committee
  • (Russian) Topic of news from RIA Novosti
  • Aviation Safety Network accident database, accident description
  • Photo of monument built on place where aircraft crashed

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See also

Bold-survived crash

Person Title
Nadezhda Maksumova Flight attendant
Vladimir Matyushin Flight engineer
Elena Sarmatova Flight attendant
Elena Shavina Flight attendant
Alexander Sizov[86] Avionic engineer
Andrei Solomentsev Captain[53]
Igor Zhivelov First Officer
Sergei Zhuravlev First Officer[53]

Flight crew

Name Age Country Title
Yuri Bakhvalov 47 Physician/Massage Therapist
Aleksandr Belyaev 48 Equipment Manager/Massage Therapist
Alexander Karpovtsev 41 Russia Assistant Coach
Igor Korolev 41 Russia/Canada Assistant Coach
Nikolai Krivonosov 31 Belarus Fitness Coach
Yevgeni Kunnov Massage Therapist
Vyacheslav Kuznetsov Russia Massage Therapist
Brad McCrimmon 52 Canada Head Coach
Vladimir Piskunov 52 Russia Administrator
Yevgeni Sidorov Russia Coach-Analyst
Andrei Zimin Team Doctor

Team staff

Player Age Country Position
Vitaly Anikeyenko 24 Russia[77] D
Mikhail Balandin 31 Russia D
Gennady Churilov 24 Russia C
Pavol Demitra 36 Slovakia C
Robert Dietrich 25 Germany D
Alexander Galimov[78][79] 26 Russia LW
Marat Kalimulin 23 Russia D
Alexander Kalyanin 23 Russia RW
Andrei Kiryukhin 24 Russia RW
Nikita Klyukin 21 Russia C
Stefan Liv 30 Sweden G
Jan Marek 31 Czech Republic C
Sergei Ostapchuk 21 Belarus LW
Karel Rachůnek 32 Czech Republic D
Ruslan Salei[80] 36 Belarus D
Maxim Shuvalov 18 Russia D
Kārlis Skrastiņš[81] 37 Latvia D
Pavel Snurnitsyn 19 Russia F
Daniil Sobchenko 20 Russia[77] C
Ivan Tkachenko 31 Russia LW
Pavel Trakhanov 33 Russia D
Yuri Urychev 20 Russia D
Josef Vašíček 30 Czech Republic C
Alexander Vasyunov[82] 23 Russia LW
Alexander Vyukhin 38 Ukraine[77] G
Artem Yarchuk 21 Russia LW

Hockey players

According to eyewitnesses, both Galimov and Sizov were severely burned, but both were conscious when rescued at the scene.[53] Both Galimov and Sizov were transported to Moscow for treatment.[54] The two were placed in medically induced comas to relieve stress; however, Galimov died on September 12 at the Vishnevsky Institute of Surgery.[74] Sizov was moved from intensive care to a ward on September 12, and his life was considered to be out of danger.[75] He was discharged from the hospital on October 28, expecting to return to aviation but perhaps not to fly.[76]

According to the Ministry of Emergency Situations, the aircraft manifest listed 8 crew members and 37 passengers as being aboard the flight. The only survivors were team player Alexander Galimov and crew member Alexander Sizov.[73] All 43 bodies were recovered from the scene.[53]

Tributes left by Slovak fans near Ondrej Nepela Arena in Bratislava on September 9.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Turkish President Abdullah Gül laying flowers outside Arena-2000 in Yaroslavl on September 8.

List of passengers and crew

Federal investigators revealed in September 2012, that the pilot and co-pilot had falsified documents stating that they had undergone the necessary training for the Yak-42. Vadim Timofeyev, deputy head of airline Yak-Service, was charged with breaching air safety rules.[8]

The committee released its final report on November 2, 2011. The committee found several problems that led to the plane crash. The first was that the Yak-Service airline "did not properly control the quality of mastering the aircraft", finding that the crew did not train long enough on the Yak-42. The second was that the crew "did not calculate the takeoff parameters", changing the takeoff thrust during takeoff. While it was not determined which pilot applied the brakes, it was determined that one applied acceleration at the same time as the other applied braking. The co-pilot was found to have a banned drug phenobarbital in his system.[72]

Simulation testing determined that pilot error was the cause as a braking force was found to have been applied by the chief pilot during takeoff. Using the plane's column and data from the flight recorder, the movement was only possible by pushing down on the brake pedals from the chief pilot's seat to push upwards on the plane's column.[6] The investigating committee found evidence of the braking failure in the braking system.[71]

On 10 October 2011, the Gromov Institute began its series of test flights. The simulations applied braking forces at different stages of the takeoff to determine what effects, if any, the forces affected the ability of the plane to reach a take-off angle and speed. The first flight created a baseline takeoff, without any braking force applied.[70]

On Friday September 23, 2011, Kyiv Post reported that the only survivor[68] of the crash, flight engineer Sizov, was questioned by the investigative committee on September 22, 2011. According to Sizov, no problems were noted in the preparation for the flight, and the plane had no problems during its previous flight. Sizov also described the distribution of the passengers and luggage on the airplane. Lokomotiv's coaches were in the front cabin of the plane, the players were in the rear cabin, and the luggage was carried in the rear luggage compartment. Kyiv Post also reported that a criminal investigation under Article 263 of the Criminal Code (flight safety violations causing two or more deaths) had been commenced.[69]

On Wednesday September 21, 2011, Rosaviatsiya formally revoked the operating license of Yak-Service as the result of the ongoing investigation.[46]

Life News reported on September 20, 2011 the opinion of test pilot Magomed Tolboev. According to Tolboev, the cause of the disaster might have been a disagreement between the aircraft commander and the copilot. From examining a 100-metre (330 ft)-long skid mark on the runway, Tolboev suggested that one of them tried to brake, while the other was trying to take off. Tolboev also considered the Yak-42 not as advanced in its build and materials as modern Western models, heavier and less fuel-efficient, but still a 'reliable vehicle' with 'best rigidity'.[67]

According to test pilot Anatoly Knishov, in an interview with Komsomolskaya Pravda, top speed 190 represents a decision point where, if failures occur before that speed, the plane must stop. At 210, Solontsev switched the engines to "takeoff mode" from "regular flight mode" or "nominal mode".[65] According to Knishov, a nominal thrust/power mode is used for empty planes, while all loaded planes use a takeoff mode. In his opinion, the switchover from a nominal to takeoff mode was late and unusual, as engine mode for taking off is normally agreed upon before starting a take-off run.[66]

Captain: 74, 76.
Flight engineer: 74,76.
Captain: Time, headlights. We are taking off, top speed 190.
Captain: Three, four, five, nominal [engine thrust].
Flight engineer: Nominal [thrust] on.
Flight engineer: Speed is increasing. [Flight] parameters [are] normal. 130, 150, 170, 190, 210.
Captain: [Switch to] takeoff [thrust].
Flight engineer: 220, 230.
Co-pilot: Maybe [it's] the stabilizer.
Captain: Takeoff, takeoff [thrust]! Stabilizer!
Co-pilot: What are you doing?
Captain: Takeoff [thrust]!
Flight engineer: Takeoff [thrust] on.
Captain: /cursing/.
Co-pilot: Andrey!

On September 19, 2011, news channel Rossiya 24 published the last minute of dialog between the flight crew, from the voice recorder:[65]

On September 17, 2011, the MAK released further information about its investigation. The plane started on the runway with approximate usable length of 2,700 metres (8,900 ft) from its starting position. The plane started down the runway with engines at nominal thrust. After six seconds, the engines were revved up to take-off thrust. Despite the increase of engine output, the plane did not increase in speed as expected. The Committee report speculates that this could have been due to some braking force, and the committee will send the remains of the plane's braking systems to a "specialized institution" for a special examination. The plane reached a maximum speed of 230 km/h (140 mph). It did not lift off the ground until some 400 metres (1,300 ft) after the end of the runway. It then hit the airport beacon. The plane did not go more than 5–6 metres (16–20 ft) off the ground. It hit the beacon, deflected to the left and impacted the ground. The flaps and slats were in takeoff position, spoilers retracted, and the stabilizer set in a ten-degree position. The elevator controls were still connected.[64]

Two simulations of the crash were planned to help determine the cause. A 'virtual' simulation used flight simulators. The data from the crashed Yak-42's flight recorders was loaded into a simulator, which then reconstructed the crash. A 'live' simulation attempted to duplicate conditions of the crash, using a similar Yak-42, which launched from Zhukovsky Airfield. The Gromov Flight Research Institute conducted the tests. The Institute previously assisted the IAC in the investigation of the crash in 2010 that killed the president of Poland, Lech Kaczyński.[63]

On September 15, 2011, a report by RT stated that it was now believed that there is no evidence to show that the parking brake was engaged during the take off roll.[60] RIA Novosti reported that Deputy Minister Okulov and Federal Air Transport Agency head Alexander Neradko both dismissed the theory in discussions with reporters at a press conference on September 14, 2011.[61] The theory was also discounted by Konstantin Malinin, a former test pilot of the Yak-42, who noted that an engaged parking brake would have left skid marks and pieces of rubber on the runway, and there were none found.[62]

[59], reported that investigators were investigating the pilots' professional history, and that the pilots did not have sufficient experience on the Another newspaper, [59]

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