Friday, March 23, 2007

March 23

Thirteen years ago today, a Russian teenager accidentally killed 75 people -- including himself -- when he caused an Aeroflot Airbus A310 to plummet earthward into the Altain Mountains near Siberian city of Mezhdurechensk. Eldar Krudinsky was the 15-year-old son of the plane’s pilot, Yaroslav, who allowed his son and daughter to sit with him in the cockpit during a flight from Moscow to Hong Kong. While his father was demonstrating the plane’s navigational features to his children, Eldar momentarily turned the control wheel just enough to partially disengage the autopilot. By the time anyone noticed, the aircraft had entered into a 90-degree bank that soon turned into steep upward pitch as the autopilot overcompensated for the sudden change of course. As the pilot and co-pilot struggled valiantly, the plane stalled, entered into a spin, and struck the ground two minutes later.

Investigators later determined that if the pilots had not seized the steering column in an attempt to regain control of the doomed plane, the autopilot would have corrected the problem.

The Flight 593 disaster brought that year’s Aeroflot death toll to 194 passengers, as the Russian company cemented its reputation as one of the most dangerous carriers on the planet; oddly enough, Aeroflot has not had a fatal accident since.