Aviakatastrofa – Air crash

June 15th, 2016 Sections: Contemporary Kyrgyzstan, History

mq1John Glenn was the first American astronaut to orbit the earth – Alan Shepard and Gus Grissom went into space but did not complete an orbit of the planet – in the Mercury spacecraft on the Friendship 7 flight in 1962.  In 1998, at the age of 77, he returned to space aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery.  Not everyone was happy to see him take the mission … the combination of him being a sitting Senator, his age and the prospect of, in the event of a disaster, losing the last of the surviving Mercury 7 – the first group of American Astronauts … and a living icon.

Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space, faced a similar situation.  Although he served on the backup crew for the Soyuz 1 mission (which ended in a fatal crash), he was effectively ‘banned’ from undertaking and further space flights.

There may have been good reason for imposing such a ban.  There was, after all, a precedent.

The First aerial voyage with Pilâtre de Rozier and d'Arlandes

The First aerial voyage with Pilâtre de Rozier and d’Arlandes

Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozier and the Marquis d’Arlandes made the first manned free balloon flight on 21 November 1783, in a Montgolfier balloon.  There Montgolfier brothers had already demonstrated their hot air ballons, the passengers on the first  ‘free’ flight being a sheep, a cockerel and a duck … it was deemed time for a manned flight.  The king was reluctant to risk human lives in what was an obviously dangerous enterprise, and proposed sending two convicted convicts up into the air … but Rozier persuaded him that the first pilots should really be people of a “higher status” … and his argument won the day.

As with Gagarin’s first flight into space, it was a short flight … about 25 minutes, covering just over 5 miles and reaching an altitude of about 3000 feet … but it was enough to make history.

The Death of Pilâtre de Rozier and Romain

The Death of Pilâtre de Rozier and Romain

He wasn’t satisfied, however, and planned further adventures … including an attempt two years later to fly across La Manche – the English Channel.  It was on this flight, on 15th June 1785, that a change of wind pushed them back to land just 5 km from their starting point, the balloon suddenly deflated, (without catching fire), and crashed near Wimereux, a seaside town just North of Boulogne in the Pas-de-Calais, from an estimated height of 450 m (1,500 feet) … earning him and his co-passenger,  Pierre Romain, another accolade – as the first known fatalities in an air crash.

I am not sure what Air Crash Investigation, (a documentary television series which delved into the causes of air crashes and other similar incidents), would make of the incident … but I think it would have been an interesting programme.

Actually, although I found it compulsive viewing, I didn’t really enjoy the programme – it always made me feel uncomfortable and made me wonder if I would ever be able to fly again.  In one way, however, it was comforting … knowing that air accidents are extremely rare, it showed how specialists work to make air travel safer, learning from experience with the aim of preventing similar incidents occurring in the future.

Here in Kyrgyzstan, we have, unfortunately, had our fair share of Aviakatastrofa – air crashes and other incidents … The Aviation Safety Network,a private, independent initiative founded in 1996, contains information on accidents and safety issues with regards to airliners, military transport planes and corporate jets and lists a total of twenty incidents in Kyrgyzstan between 1986 and 2015.

Since Independence in 1991 it cites:

  • On 14th April, 1998, a Yak 40 arriving at Djalal Abad airport overran the runway on landing and was damaged beyond repair, but there were no reported casualties.
  • On 21st October, 2001, a Yak 40 plane carrying 36 people overran the runway at Osh airport and ended up in a ditch following an abortive take off … damaging the plane beyond repair, but there were no casualties among the occupants.
  • On 23rd October, 2002, In the early hours before dawn, an IL-62 airliner operated by the Tretyakovo Air Transport Company was taking off from Manas Airport and ran off the end of the runway … there were no passengers aboard and all eleven crew members escaped, with only minor injuries.
    • For some reason, the following two don’t appear on the database …
      • December 17, 2002 : Also at Manas airport,  a Norwegian fighter plane crashed crash landed.  After ​​a hard landing, which made ​​him fall off the rear chassis, and was dragged several meters on its belly.  The pilot was not injured.
      • January 4, 2004: Again at Manas, a Dutch fighter also crashed on landing.  The hydraulics on the landing gear failed, after which the plane rolled off the runway and stuck its nose into the ground. The pilot was not injured.
  • September 26th, 2006, when Manas Airport was still being used by the US military, a Kyrgyzstan Airlines Tupolev Tu-154 aircraft, (that was used to carry the President when he travelled abroad), was taking off for Domodedovo airport in Moscow, when it collided on the runway with an Air Force tanker that had just landed. The Tupolev, carrying 52 passengers and 9 crew, lost part of its wing … but was able to take off and return to make a safe landing,  The tanker plane, on the other hand, caught fire and was destroyed.  Fortunately, there were no injuries on either aircraft.
  • On June 23rd, 2007, a Yak-40 departed was on an inspection flight to Issyk kul-Tamchi Airport, Naryn and Kazarman. About half an hour after taking off from Tamchi Airport, it developed problems in one of the engines and the flight engineer shut down the engine. At the same time the temperature of the other engine began to rise and it became clear that the plane would not make it’s next scheduled destination, Naryn, so the pilot attempted to land at a small mountain airstrip.  The strip, however, was now littered with rocks and there were irrigation ditches which hampered his emergency landing  … the plane caught fire and was written off.  Fortunately, none of the 13 people on board were harmed.
  • On 26th August, 2007, an Antonov plane on a crop-spraying flight attempted a forced landing near the Dostuk border post in the Leilak district of Batken, landing very hard, catching fire and was burnt out.  The plane was written off, but the 4 people on board escaped unharmed.
  • On 24th August, 2008, a charter flight to Tehran, operated by local airline Itek Air reported a technical problem on takeoff and was returning to the airport when the plane crashed 3 kilometres from the airport, killing 68 of the 90 passengers and crew on the plane – making it the worst incident in Kyrgyzstan’s history.
  • On 22nd February, 2009, an Antonov plane on a flight from a small, local airfield outside Bishkek was flying to Bukhara in Uzbekistan … about a minute after takeoff the crew reported that they were returning to the aerodrome due to loss of engine power, when the engines cut out completely, and the crew attempted an emergency landing in a field.  Unfortunately, the field was deeply rutted, (in a direction perpendicular to the direction of aircraft), and on touchdown, one of the landing gear collapsed, along with the left hand wings. The plane was written off, but there were no casualties among the 4 people on board.
  • On 9th June, 2009, A small Antonov plane being used for Agricultural purposes  with two people on board, suffered engine problems and crashed, damaging the plane beyond repaid, but with no casualties.
  • On 28 December, 2011 a Kyrgyzstan Airlines Tu-134, on a flight from Bishkek to Osh rolled off the runway on landing at Osh, broke its wing, overturned and caught fire.  Of the 86 passengers and crew on board, some 31 were injured in the incident, with 17 of them requiring hospitalization.
  • On 3rd May 2013 a US Military Tanker took off from Manas airport for the theater of operations over Afghanistan … shortly after takeoff it crashed into the mountains scattering wreckage over an area of about a kilometer radius.  The three crew were killed in the incident.
  • On 24th May, 2013, an Antonov biplane was on a fumigation flight, spraying locusts on a hillside in the Aksy district of Southern Kyrgyzstan, when ic made contact with power lines at an altitude of 15 meters when flying into the sun.  In the resulting crash, which destroyed the plane, all three on board were killed.
  • November 22nd, 2015, and early morning flight from Krasnoyarsk in Russia diverted from Osh to Bishkek due to poor visibility and later, after visibility improved at Osh, the aircraft continued to the timetabled destination. Upon landing, however, the aircraft left the runway, the left hand main landing gear and one of the engines broke off.  There were no casualties among the 153 passengers and crew, but the plane was written off as damaged beyond repair.

In addition, there have been a number of incidents involving helicopters – perhaps the most famous being:

  • March 15, 2000: In the At-Bashy district of the Naryn oblast. An Mi-8 helicopter crashed on a rock. The helicopter had picked up a  group of people and during the flight, in bad weather conditions, the helicopter’s tail touched the rock. As a result, 3 people were killed, (including a deputy in the Jogorku Kenesh), and four more were wounded . The helicopter was burned out.
  • In March 2004, a hunting part near the Chinese border were aboard a helicopter which crashed in a remote part of the Naryn oblast.  One of the hunters used their satellite telephone to call home in Canada, and a rescue flight was organized … but the rescue helicopter was overloaded and also crashed … and eventually troops from the nearby Torugart border post arrived and brought the three hunters to safety.  Unfortunately, the pilot and a Kyrgyz citizen were killed in the incident and the hunters were injured but later recovered.post
  • August 6, 2005:  At the climbing base camp at “South Enilchek”, in the Issyk-Kul region, a helicopter crashed on take off.  It had arrived at camp, at the foot of the peaks Pobeda and Khan Tengri, to pick up a group of climbers. On take-off, it could not gather the necessary height and crashed.  There were no fatalities, but the seventeen tourists and four crew members on board had to be evacuated. The helicopter was burned out completely.
  • In September 2012, a helicopter was leaving the Khan Tengri base camp crashed into the glacier before managing to level off and fly off.


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