When a Russian plane crashed and burned on the tarmac in Moscow on Sunday, killing 41 people, the decision by some passengers to defy the rules and grab their cabin baggage before evacuating may have contributed to the death toll.

Passengers are meant to exit an aircraft in an emergency with nothing except themselves and what they are wearing. Speed is the essence.

Those who died included two children. Aeroflot flight SU 1492 (a Russian-built Superjet 100 aircraft) crash-landed at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport, bouncing on touchdown and then bursting into flames on impact.

The Aviation Herald said the flight from Moscow Sheremetyevo to Murmansk (a Russian city in the Arctic Circle) with 73 passengers and five crew, declared loss of radio communication shortly after takeoff and turned back. It landed back at the Moscow airport 27 minutes after takeoff.

Russia’s Interfax news agency reported that a “loss of communication” caused by a “lightning strike” had made the pilot decide to turn back, though no official cause of the disaster has yet been provided.

It is not particularly unusual for planes to be struck by lightning. They are build to handle it.


Passengers evacuated the aircraft on slides from the front door.

Britain’s Daily Mirror quoted an airport official saying that “many passengers delayed emergency evacuation because – against all instructions – they were picking up hand baggage from overhead compartments”.

Russia’s Interfax news agency agreed, citing an unnamed “informed source” saying some passengers had insisted on collecting their hand luggage first, delaying evacuation of the stricken plane.

Video of the evacuation shows some passengers with bags, though the evacuation was still conducted rapidly.

Russian state TV broadcast mobile phone footage filmed by another passenger in which people could be heard shouting and screaming.

The Superjet 100 is the first commercial airliner to be produced in Russia since the end of the Soviet era and its production is considered a mark of national prestige. It has been in commercial service since 2011.

Below: A Sukhoi Superjet 100 over Italy. Wikipedia photo

Written by Peter Needham