The disaster which has killed 83 people to date in western Ukraine is the worst ever to have taken place at an air show. A further 115 people are reported to have been injured when the Sukhoi SU-27 crashed at 12.45 MSK on Friday.
The manoeuvre at low altitude over Skhyliv airport, Lviv, in western Ukraine went badly wrong as the aircraft, flown by two experienced pilots, lost power, appeared to hit a stationary aircraft on the runway and after sliding along the ground for some 50 metres, burst into flames, killing 83 people, seven of whom were children and injuring 115. Both pilots managed to eject and are in hospital, in a condition reported as “more or less serious”, according to hospital sources in the Ukraine.
President Leonid Kouchma interrupted his holiday to be present at the airport. He dismissed his Air Force Chief and banned all future military manoeuvres at air shows in the country. The air show at Lviv was to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the 14th Air Corps. The Sukhoi SU-27 is a large fighter aircraft which can reach a maximum velocity of 2,500 kph and has an autonomy of 4,000 kilometres.
The fact that the pilots ejected before the aircraft crashed would indicate that it was already out of control when it came dangerously close to the ground, apparently ruling out collision as the source of the crash, but rather the symptom. Until the black box is analysed there is only conjecture as to the origin of the accident but everything would indicate power failure at a critical moment of the manoeuvre.
Previous air show disasters in the last 15 years were at Ramstein, Germany, in 1988 when three aircraft crashed in mid air, killing 70. In 1993, at an air show in New Hampshire, USA, a parachutist collided with the wing of an aircraft (2 dead). In 1995, three military aircraft collided near Mexico City (3 dead). In 1997, ten people were killed and 54 were injured when a Jordanian aircraft crashed into the Red Cross stand at Ostende, Belgium.
In 2000, there were two accidents with Czech aircraft, the first being at Sliac, Czech Republic, when a military aircraft crashed into the ground, killing the pilot and the second, at Eastbourne, UK, when a Delfin L29 crashed into the sea, also killing its pilot. In 2001, a De Havilland crashed during a manoeuvre at Biggin Hill airbase at Kent, southern England, killing two.
Timothy BANCROFT-HINCHEY PRAVDA.Ru
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