MOSCOW — A passenger plane with 28 people aboard crashed in far eastern Russia on Tuesday, the authorities said, in the latest blow to the country’s sprawling but aging domestic aviation industry.
The plane, a Soviet-made An-26 flying a regional route in the mountainous peninsula of Kamchatka, lost radio contact with air traffic control about 10 minutes before its expected landing in the town of Palana, near the Sea of Okhotsk, officials said. Hours later, airborne search crews found pieces of the plane’s fuselage in the sea and on the shore.
There were not believed to be any survivors, Russian news agencies reported. The plane, Kamchatka Aviation Enterprise Flight 251, appeared to be making a second attempt to land amid foggy conditions when it hit a cliff.
“The crash is presumed to have occurred during a go-around approach during landing in poor visibility,” the Kamchatka region’s governor, Vladimir Solodov, said in a statement.
The incident was Russia’s third major commercial aviation calamity in the last three and a half years. In 2018, an An-148 regional jet plunged into a field just after takeoff from Moscow, killing all 71 aboard. In 2019, a Russian-made Sukhoi SSJ-100 jet made a fiery emergency landing on a Moscow runway, killing 41.
And was at least the second failure involving a passenger plane flying to Palana from Kamchatka’s main city, Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky. In 2012, an An-28 approaching the remote town of about 3,000 people crashed into a mountainside, killing 10.
The Russian aviation sector has been modernized in recent years, and the state airline, Aeroflot, operates close to 200 Boeing and Airbus jets. But in the far-flung regions, where an aircraft is sometimes the only available mode of travel, airlines still often rely on rumbling, low-flying, Soviet-era propeller planes.
On Kamchatka, a sparsely populated land of snowcapped peaks, geysers and volcanoes across the northern Pacific Ocean from Alaska, the regional airline, Kamchatka Aviation Enterprise, serves seven towns and villages from its Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky hub. The airline’s chief executive, Aleksey Khrabrov, said that the plane that crashed had been maintained “in full accordance with safety norms.”
The plane involved first entered service in 1982, the state-run news agency Tass reported. Its past operators include Air Mali in Africa and the United Nations, and it has been flying in Kamchatka since 2013, the news agency said.
Within hours of Tuesday’s crash, the regional government published the names of those on the plane — six crew members and 22 passengers, including two children. Officials indicated that poor weather was a likely cause. Law enforcement authorities said they were also examining the possibilities of a technical malfunction and pilot error.
“The plane approached landing in difficult weather conditions, with poor visibility and a crosswind,” an emergency services official told the Interfax news agency. “It was not successful the first time, and the second time it hit a cliff without noticing it.”