Utair 737 Crash Lands At Sochi Airport

Filed Under: Other Airlines

Utair is a fairly large Russian airline that operates a fleet of over 60 aircraft, consisting mostly of 737s. They primarily operate domestic flights, though also some international flights.

Unfortunately very early this morning a Utair 737-800 had an accident while landing at Sochi Airport. The flight, UT579, was operating a scheduled service on the ~850 mile flight from Moscow to Sochi, and was carrying 164 passengers and six crew. The exact plane involved in the incident had the tail number VQ-BJI, and was about 16 years old.

Upon landing the plane skidded off the runway, crashed through the airport fence, and fell into a river bed. The landing gear collapsed, and the left engine caught fire, causing the left wing to burn.

Reports suggest that 18 passengers were injured, and unfortunately one airport employee suffered a fatal heart attack during the rescue operation.

Weather conditions weren’t great, as the plane was landing during a period of pretty heavy winds and rain. The plane actually only landed on its third approach — the aircraft canceled its first approach due to changing winds (and a new runway assignment), then it did a go around for its second approach, and then it landed on the third approach, only to have this happen.

Here’s a video with some footage following the accident:

I have two further thoughts here. First of all, while it’s tragic that a ground worker died of a heart attack, it amazes me how well built planes are. We’ve seen several major incidents with no fatalities among passengers, and that’s just incredible.

Second of all, Utair sure has a spotty record when it comes to safety. This is their fourth aircraft hull loss since 2007, and in that period they’ve also had four helicopter crashes. I get that they probably operate under some challenging conditions, but that is pretty concerning.

  1. Similar thing happened with an Air France flight at YYZ a few years back, although there wasn’t a fire, it skidded off the runway into a shallow ravine. If memory serves there where no lives lost. Still, considering how many flights a day world wide and how few accidents, this is still the safest way to travel. Even the bus has had its trials and tribulations lately.

  2. @eskimo, you may be right––– in which case Merriam-Webster is wrong:

    Definition of crash-land
    : to land (an airplane or spacecraft) under emergency conditions usually with damage to the craft

  3. @eskimo — According to the Oxford Dictionary, “crash-land” is a verb. It would seem to be an appropriate word to describe what happened here.

  4. Great job, trememdous kudos to the flight attendants who evacuated everyone safely. The fire looked ferocious but the slides look untouched or scorched making those exits usable.

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