A mystery has been partially solved in the far eastern region of Russia, where authorities have found the wreckage of a missing airliner. The aircraft, an Antonov AN-26, went missing only ten minutes before it was scheduled to land in the coastal town of Palana. Olga Mokhireva, the leader of Palana’s local government, was on board the plane when it went missing.
The Kamchatka Peninsula region is an extremely remote part of Russia, and its geography has made the search for the missing aircraft more complicated. Search-and-rescue teams were deployed on all-terrain vehicles to find the missing plane and its passengers. However, they did not have any luck–until now.
The aircraft suddenly stopped communicating with ground teams only minutes before it was meant to land. It was leaving from Petropavlovsk-Kamchatski, the Kamchatka region’s capital, on the way back to the small settlement of Palana.
Its sudden disappearance, while troubling, is not unheard of for this remote region of Russia. The Arctic is extremely hostile to air travel, and the far eastern region of Eurasia is known for its extremely rocky and mountainous terrain.
The plane was finally discovered on Tuesday when rescue teams found its wreckage only a few kilometers from the runway where it was scheduled to land. Some reports from the region have indicated that the plane may have struck a rock while flying low to land. Russian authorities have announced that a criminal investigation has been launched to determine if the plane was brought down by something other than an accident.
Twenty-two passengers and six crew members were on board the aircraft when it went missing. After finding the wreckage, rescue teams have stated that they don’t believe anyone survived the crash. “One part of the fuselage was found on the shore, the other in the water,” stated Kamchatka Governor Vladimir Solodov in a statement on the region’s government website.
Russian air safety has been a topic of concern for regulators in the past, with several notable incidents seeing planes crash on the runway or near airports. An AN-148 crashed outside of Moscow in February 2018, claiming the lives of the 71 passengers inside. Just over a year later, in May of 2019, a Sukhoi Superjet crashed and caught fire on the runway in Moscow, leading to the deaths of the 41 people aboard.
While there have been fewer aircraft accidents recently than in past decades, the frequency with which planes crash just after takeoff or just before landing in Russia may be cause for concern while traveling within the country.