Navigator in Russia crash was 'lightly drunk'

Official report finds navigator in June air crash that killed 47 people was slightly over the legal limit for alcohol.

    The navigator's blood alcohol content was just over the legal limit for driving in Britain and many US states [AFP]

    The navigator of a Russian plane that crashed in June, killing 47 people, was legally drunk, an official report has said.

    Russia's Interstate Aviation Committee said the navigator "was in a light state of alcoholic intoxication" as the crew attempted to land the plane, in a report posted on its website on Monday.

    The RusAir Tu-134 jet crashed into the tops of trees, overturned and slammed into the ground while trying to land in fog at the airport in the northern city of Petrozavodsk, the first in a string of Russian air accidents in recent months.

    The report said the experienced navigator, 50, was "excessively active", with data recorders showing he had told the chief pilot several times to speed up the landing.

    At one point, he told the pilot: "Sasha, turn quicker, come on!" the report said.

    'Excessive self-assurance'

    The navigator's body was found to have 0.81 grams of alcohol per litre of blood, which would have caused a "light" level of drunkenness, likely to make a person less self-critical, the report said.

    His blood alcohol content was just over the legal limit for driving in Britain and many US states, although Russia has a zero tolerance policy for drivers.

    The navigator had 25 years' experience and had logged more than 13,000 hours on Tu-134 flights, said the
    committee

    It added the navigator's behaviour was a contributing factor in the crash, but found that the main cause was the incorrect decision not to abort the landing as the plane descended into thick fog with no sight of the runway.

    It blamed a "lack of discipline and excessive self-assurance of the crew members".

    The question remained why the navigator had been permitted to fly.

    A pre-flight medical examination of the crew appeared to have been done "as a formality", the report, with all of the crew recorded as having exactly the same pulse rate.

    Forty-four people died on the scene of the crash and three died later in hospital.

    Among the dead were a citizen of the Netherlands, a Swede and two Ukrainians. Five people, including a stewardess, survived the crash with serious injuries.

    The report's findings come as an investigation continues into the crash of a plane carrying a top ice hockey team earlier this month, the latest in a string of air disasters in Russia, where many smaller airlines use outdated Soviet-era planes.

    The latest crash prompted Dmitry Medvedev, the Russian president, to order his government to shut down unreliable airlines and raise penalties for air safety violations.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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