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Tu-204 Crashes Near Domodedovo Airport, 8 Injured

A Tu-204 lying in a forest near Moscow?€™s Domodedovo Airport after crashing at 2:35 a.m. in heavy fog Monday. Vladimir Davydov

A Tu-204 passenger jet crashed into a forest near Domodedovo Airport while making an emergency landing early Monday, injuring all eight crew members onboard.

The plane, operated by state-controlled airline Aviastar, had made an emergency landing at Domodedovo Airport a day earlier after smoke filled the cabin shortly after takeoff, but crash investigators downplayed any link between the incident and Monday's crash.

Still, the government's aviation watchdog, the Federal Air Transportation Service, grounded all Aviastar flights pending the outcome of an investigation.

Investigators said they believed that the crash had been caused by a violation of air traffic safety regulations, possibly by the pilots or the airline. The maximum penalty for violating air traffic safety regulations is seven years in prison.

The crash was the first of a Tu-204, Russia's most modern passenger jet.

The plane was returning to Moscow empty after delivering 210 passengers to the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Hurgada. The plane had been en route to Hurgada when it turned around Sunday because of the smoke in the cabin.

The smoke was caused by a failure of the cabin's heating system, the aviation watchdog said Monday.

The plane crashed in heavy fog at 2:35 a.m. after pilots radioed controllers that they needed to make an emergency landing. It was unclear what had prompted the pilots' distress call.

All eight crew members were hospitalized, including two in serious condition, RIA-Novosti reported, citing the Emergency Situations Ministry.
? An Aviastar spokeswoman declined to comment on the crash, saying only that all of the airline's officials at Domodedovo were assisting in the crash investigation.

The airline is affiliated with aircraft maker Aviastar SP, based in Ulyanovsk, which builds the Tu-204.

Valenin Dudin, an independent aviation expert, said Aviastar should have grounded the plane for a more comprehensive check of its systems after Sunday's accident.

“When they say that they don’t see a connection [with the crash], that doesn’t mean that there isn't one,” he told The Moscow Times.
While the crash was the first for a Tu-204, the aircraft have experienced numerous minor glitches in the past that could have easily led to tragedy, said Roman Gusarov, editor of the aviation news portal.

He said many aircraft systems in the Tu-204, which was designed in 1989 and launched in serial production in 1994, are underdeveloped.
Konstantin Teterin, general director of privately owned Red Wings, Russia's largest Tu-204 operator with nine of the aircraft, told Business FM radio station that most of the Tu-204's problems were related to the low quality of spare parts for the jet's engines.
“Spare parts for the Tu-204 are terribly expensive. They cost several times more than similar ones for Boeing or Airbus,” he said.
Among the aircraft's operators are several private Russian airlines and Chinese and Cuban national carriers. More than 40 of the aircraft are in operation.

A helicopter crashed in the North Pole after its tail snagged an ice ridge during a turn, The Associated Press reported Monday.

Five crew members emerged unscathed Sunday from the helicopter, one of two aircraft that were transporting fuel to an Arctic base, State Duma Deputy Artur Chilingarov said.

The aircraft belong to Taimyr, a company based in Norilsk, and were assembling the Borneo ice base, which is rebuilt each year because of melting ice.

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