A Brief History
On March 23, 1994, one of the worst excuses for an airliner crash happened when an Aeroflot pilot allowed his 12 and 16-year-old children to play with the controls of the Airbus A310-300 (a competitor of the Boeing 767) he was flying, resulting in a crash that killed all 75 people aboard!
Most of the 63 passengers on Aeroflot Flight 593 were businessmen from China and Taiwan who were returning from Russia. The flight had left Sheremetyevo Airport and was headed to Hong Kong. One pilot violated both airline rules and the common sense rules of anyone with a brain when he let his two children sit at the controls while the jet flew on autopilot.
One of the kids inadvertently turned off the autopilot, but no warning buzzer sounded as the pilots were accustomed to. The plane then veered from course, giving the pilots their first clue that something was majorly wrong. It then went into a vertical dive, and the strong forces prevented the irresponsible father from getting back into his pilot’s seat. Instead he barked orders at his son to steer the plane. Eventually the co-pilot got the plane to fly upward again, and the pilot was able to get back into this seat from where he tried to stabilize the plane, but it was too late; they were too low and crashed into a hillside.
Investigators later concluded that if the pilots had just let the controls alone, the jet would have self corrected, but the frantic wrestling for control had doomed the flight.
In case you do not know much about Aeroflot, it was once the state-run airline of the Soviet Union. One of the world’s oldest airlines, it dates back to 1923. During the 1970s, it was as big as all the major U.S. airlines combined. At its peak, it carried about a half million passengers per day. In 1992, Aeroflot claimed 10,000 aircraft and 600,000 employees, though it was split up into 15 regional airlines at that time. Today it is listed as having only 150 aircraft and 30,000+ employees. Also in 1992, the government of Russia sold 49% of the company to the employees, making it a semi-publicly-owned airline. Aeroflot has the distinction of being the airline with the longest continuously operating jet aircraft, such as the Tupolev Tu-104 that was introduced in 1956 and remained in service until 1981.
Personally, even with the guarantee that the pilot will be a responsible adult, as a result of the legroom getting smaller (even though people are getting bigger and bigger), services and amenities diminishing, prices going up for carry-ons and extra bags, the threat of charging by the pound (I could not afford to fly then!) and the hassle of getting through customs and security, I would rather drive. Question for students (and subscribers): What about you? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.
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For more information, please see…
McBrewster, John, Frederic P. Miller, and Agnes F. Vandome, eds. Aeroflot Flight 593. Iphascript publishing, 2010.