MOSCOW — A small Russian passenger plane believed to be carrying 28 people crashed in the nation’s Far East on Tuesday, local emergency services said.
The Antonov AN-26 has been located just a few miles from the airport in a coastal town on the Kamchatka peninsula, TASS news agency reported citing local emergency services officials. No survivors have been reported.
The plane was flying from the regional capital of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky to Palana. The flight’s manifest showed 22 passengers and six crew members were aboard, according to emergency services.
State media outlet TASS reported that the plane has flown since 1982, and its safety certifications were due to expire on August 30, 2021.
Local emergency services launched a search Tuesday morning, dispatching one Mi-8 search-and-rescue helicopter. Search parties were also dispatched by land and sea.
The aircraft in question was operated by Kamchatka Aviation Enterprise, and has been with the operator since 2013. The passengers, according to Russian media, were mostly local residents of Palana — including the town’s head Olga Mokhireva and several other town officials. Palana has a population of about 3,000.
The Russian Investigative Committee and the local transport ministry have opened a criminal investigation under articles related to violations of transportation safety codes. No likely cause for the crash has yet been identified, but in Russia airliner crashes are overwhelmingly attributed to pilot error.
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However, the Federal Air Transport Agency has said there was poor weather in the area, including a low cloud ceiling at around 1,000 feet.
It is not uncommon to see old Soviet military transports such as the AN-26 converted into civilian service in some of the more remote and sparsely populated regions of Siberia and the Far East — where distances between settlements are vast and transport infrastructure is dilapidated, under-developed or otherwise non-existent. But these aircraft are frequently involved in aviation accidents.