MOSCOW – MOSCOW (AP) — Russia's top investigative agency has launched a probe into the emergency landing of a passenger jet that rolled into a forest without hurting anyone, officials said Wednesday.
The Tupolev Tu-154 airliner was carrying 72 passengers and nine crew when it suffered an electrical system failure Tuesday while flying from the northern Siberian town of Polyarnyi to Moscow.
The pilot managed to descend from the cruising altitude of 10,000 meters (33,000 feet), spot an abandoned military air base and land.
But the air base's runway near the village of Izhma in the northern Komi region was too short for the big Tupolev that was landing at a speed much higher than usual because of the systems failure, and the plane rolled off into a nearby forest. Russian television stations showed footage of the airliner sitting among mostly intact young trees.
The State Investigative Committee said it would probe what caused the accident. The plane is owned by Alrosa airlines.
"We had no time to get scared," passenger Alexey Grishin said on Rossiya television. "We only got scared when we got out of the plane."
Grishin and other passengers praised the pilots who managed to land despite overwhelming odds. The electrical system failure meant that the flaps intended to slow the plane down on final approach didn't work.
One veteran Russian pilot likened Tuesday's landing to the successful landing of a U.S. Airways jet in the Hudson River in January 2009.
"Our boy was just as great an ace as the American pilot who managed to save the people and the craft in an emergency," pilot Yuri Sytnik told the ITAR-Tass news agency.
Officials wouldn't comment on possible reasons behind the plane's systems failure. Alexander Neradko, the head of the state civil aviation agency, said Wednesday that the authorities would conduct additional checks but wouldn't ground any Tu-154s pending the investigation.
The Tu-154, first flown in 1968, has been a mainstay with Soviet and the Russian civil aviation and hundreds are still in service in Russia and other nations.