A Russian plane crash killed 44 of 52 aboard a Tu-134 today. While the age of the plane was questioned, some experts also point to need for better training and maintenance at smaller carriers.
Timur Khanov/Komsomolskaya Pravda/AP
A fatal plane crash in western Russia has once again focused attention on the country's fleet of Soviet-built Tupolev jets, which do not meet international standards but are still flown by many regional airlines.
Russian aviation officials blamed pilot error for the accident, which killed 44 people – including eight foreigners.
The Tu-134 and its big sister, the Tu-154, were the main workhorses of Soviet aviation, which used to transport about 120 million passengers annually; twice Russia's current traffic. The country's main carrier, Aeroflot, retired all its Tupolev planes in 2009, but about 230 of each type remain in use with smaller airlines serving far-flung Russian communities and airlines of former Soviet republics.
Though notoriously cramped and uncomfortable, the planes until recently enjoyed safety records comparable to many similar Western-built aircraft. According to SOAR, a private company that teaches clients to overcome the fear of flying, both the Tu-134 and the Tu-154 have suffered about one crash per million hours of flying, or roughly the same rate as the Douglas DC-9 and Airbus 310.
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