is too early to conclude what happened with this aircraft, but since
I have been asked about this by email, here are my own, personal and
failure: unlikely. The Tu-154 is a three engine aircraft and
an extremely strong beast. It’s safety record is comparable
to most aircraft of its time, even though it was often used in
extreme conditions other aircraft types did not have to operate in.
The Tu-154 had already taken enough altitude to attempt a return to
base or even a water landing. The weather that day was good.
Besides, the crew did not communicate any problem. Thus the
disaster had to be instantaneous.
problem: unlikely. Fuel problems are always a prime suspect
when a crash occurs, but even if the engines had suddenly
experienced problems or even a full shutdown, the pilots would have
had the time to report this. Also, like any other aircraft,
the Tu-154 can glide and maneuver without power.
strike: unlikely. I am not even sure that there have ever been
a triple engine failure due to a bird strike but even if there has
been, they crew could have reported it which it did not. And,
again, the case of US
Airways flight 1549 has
shown that even a catastrophic birdstrike does not prevent a fully
loaded airliner from attempting to land.
error: highly unlikely. The guys flying this aircraft where
extremely experienced and while human error is always possible, it
mostly results in situation were it can be reported. The
Tu-154 was a very complex aircraft to operate and it had its
weaknesses – but these were all very well known to the Russian
crews and this crew was a very experienced one.
unlikely. The Tu-154 has three engines including one mounted over
the top of the rear of the fuselage and a MANPAD type missile
warhead does not have the kind of blast radius capable of taking out
all three of them. As for bigger missiles, the Black Sea
coasts of Russia is very tightly controlled by the Russian military
and security services (as is the entire Black Sea) and to get that
close to the city of Sochi would be risky and difficult.
most likely simply because all other causes are even less likely.
True, this was a military aircraft with, supposedly, good security.
Alas, I can confirm from personal experience that if you look
Russian and speak Russian like a native and if you act the right
way, military security in Russia is nowhere near as good as it
should be. However, if you speak with an accent or look
foreign, and that includes speaking with a Caucasian accent or
looking like somebody from the Caucasus, you would have a much
harder time beating the controls.
all these reasons and even though it is way too early to speculate,
my of preferred hypothesis is that it was a terrorist act executed by
Ukrainian operatives. I hope that I am wrong and that I will be
proven wrong in the next 24 hours but at this point in time, this
appears to me as the most likely scenario.
more thing: this tragedy really breaks my heart. Not only did
the entire Alexandro Ensembleperish,
but two amazing personalities were on board: Valerii
There are no words to express the loss which the death of all these
people represents for Russia. This is why I hope and pray that
in spite of why first reaction outlined above, this is not a
Ukrainian terrorist attack because if it is, the consequences will be
very severe. We should know more very soon.