Wednesday 27th of May 2020, 14:46 CET
Ukrainian plane crashes near Trabzon: blow for charter business
May 26, 2003
CNN Europe

Posted by HW on May 26, 2020

Blow to business
The deadly crash in Turkey of a Ukrainian transport plane ferrying Spanish peacekeepers home from Afghanistan has dealt a serious blow to this former Soviet republic's bustling air transport business.

74 people killed
The Russian-made Yak-42D, which belonged to Ukrainian-Mediterranean Airlines, hit a mountain slope Monday near the town of Macka, 50 kilometers (30 miles) south of the Turkish port of Trabzon. All 74 people aboard - 62 Spanish peacekeepers and 12 Ukrainian crew members - were killed.

Second time
It was the second accident involving Soviet-built planes flying Ukrainian charter missions this month. The plane was en route from Kabul, Afghanistan, to Zaragoza, Spain, and crashed attempting to make a refueling stop in Turkey.

On May 10, the cargo door of an Il-76 plane, operated by state-owned Ukrainian Cargo Airways, opened at 33,000 feet (10,058 meters) above Congo's vast jungle, sending dozens of people to their deaths.

Major role in commercial transport
Ukrainian charter companies have become major players in international military, peacekeeping and commercial transport missions since the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union.

Ukraine has capitalized on its production of the world's largest transport aircraft, the An-225 Mriya (Dream), and marketed itself aggressively for peacekeeping missions since the 1991 Soviet collapse.

Iraq, Afghanistan
At least one An-225 Mriya ferried U.S. equipment to Kuwait during the Iraq war, said Leonid Polyakov, a military expert at the Razumkov Center for Economic and Political Studies, a Kiev-based think tank. Other Ukrainian aircraft have served missions in Afghanistan, the Baltics and Africa.

"Where there is a need to carry really big stuff fast and cheap, there is no major competitor in the world," Polyakov said.

Shortage of trained pilots
Polyakov said many of Ukraine's charter air transport companies are partially owned by the military, which suffers a critical shortage of trained pilots. However, he stressed that charter pilots are generally more qualified than military pilots.

"The experience of the crews is beyond question. Otherwise (the companies) would not have had so many contracts," said Polyakov.

Too much
Ukrainian-Mediterranean Airlines said its pilots have 6,000-14,000 flight hours of experience. However, the boom in Ukraine's charter business has a down side too. "Maybe (the pilots) even fly too much, and too much is not good either," Polyakov said.

Dense fog
He said reports that the pilots had made two earlier attempts to land in dense fog indicated that either the crew or traffic controllers were to blame for Monday's crash. Turkey's private NTV television quoted an aviation official as saying the pilot reported not being able to see the runway in the first two attempts.

Other crashes
A series of other crashes have buffeted Ukraine's struggling aviation sector over the last year. In December, a Ukrainian-built An-140 twin-engine turboprop slammed into a mountain on a final approach to an airport in Iran, killing all 44 people aboard. In July, a Soviet-era SU-27 fighter jet plowed into a crowd in western Ukraine, killing some 76 spectators in the world's worst air show disaster.
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