27 December, 2016 SOURCE: Flightglobal Pro BY: David Kaminski-Morrow London
Russian authorities have disclosed that the Tupolev Tu-154 which crashed in the Black Sea had originally been due to refuel in Mozdok, in North Ossetia, rather than Sochi.
The aircraft had departed Chkalovsky airfield, north-east of Moscow, on 25 December, bound for Latakia in Syria.
It had been scheduled to refuel in Mozdok but the Russian federal security service FSB says the plan was changed as a result of difficult weather conditions.
FSB says the aircraft, having departed Sochi at 05:25, flew for about 1min over the Black Sea and, at a distance of 6.25km from the end of the runway, lost contact and subsequently disappeared from radar surveillance.
It had taken off with a “normal” speed of 186kt (345km/h), says the security service. Wreckage has been located just 1.5km from the coastal district of Khosta.
The Tu-154 was transporting about 150kg of cargo – including food and medicine – and was not transporting pyrotechnic freight or military goods.
After it arrived at Sochi, it was “taken under protection” by FSB and defence ministry personnel, says the service adds, with only two authorised individuals boarding the jet during refuelling.
FSB says there is no immediate evidence pointing to an act of sabotage. The service states that engine ingestion, substandard fuel, or some sort of technical failure or crew problem remain valid potential explanations.