ABC News is reporting that a Russian military aircraft has crashed in the southern area of the country leaving one crewman dead and four more injured.
The Antonov AN-26 transport crashed as it came into land after a training flight at Balashov airbase in the Saratov region and then burst into flames after hitting the ground according to Russian Defense Ministry authorities.
The surviving crew were being treated at a nearby military hospital, some for serious injuries, Russia’s Investigative Committee, the country’s equivalent of the FBI, said in a statement.
There had been four pilots and a cadet aboard the plane, the statement said.
The Investigative Committee said it appeared the crash may have been caused by the failure of one of the plane’s engines but that it was still investigating. The Committee said it had opened a criminal investigation into the incident, examining whether flight rules and preparations for it had been properly followed.
The AN-26 is a Soviet-era transport plane, still widely used by the Russian military.
In recent years, Russia’s air force has suffered a series of deadly crashes, mostly caused by technical failure. Last summer, Russia grounded around 300 of its Su-27 fighter jets after a fatal crash. In 2015, it also grounded its fleet of long-range Tupolev Tu-95 bombers that serve as part of the country’s nuclear deterrent after one of the Cold War-era planes caught fire.
Aviation experts have blamed the crashes in part on Russia’s ageing fleet of military aircraft largely constructed under the Soviet Union, but note the uptick in accidents has also coincided with increased activity by the Russian air force in the past two years.
The Russian’s aging fleet of aircraft and the increased operational tempo is not a recipe for stopping this kind of accident. With their increased presence in many parts of the world, the Putin government will have to start putting more money in their aircraft industry to upgrade their inventory.
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