Air Accidents in Russia

Graph of air accidents in Russia 1923-2019 (via the blogger genby).

  • Thin red line – deaths per year; Thick red line – deaths averaged over 5 years.
  • Thin blue line – accidents per year; Thick blue line – accidents averaged over 5 yeas.

Mishaps regardless, flying continues to become much safer in Russia, just like in the world at large:

Furthermore, note that the number of passengers carried has almost quintupled since c.2000, and has exceeded the Soviet era peak reached in 1990 since 2017:

As regards the Superjet, the accident last week rules out any prospects of the SuperJet achieving any kind of commercial success. Bad luck or not, losing 2 airframes out of ~150 deliveries during seven years of commercial operation is catastrophic. For comparison, the infamous Boeing 737 MAX also has a failure rate of ~1% of airframes – although that’s over just three years of flying.

That said, some of the propaganda that has been coming out about it is quite ridiculous and even downright wrong:

It is clearly aimed at shaming Russia into further developing its domestic aviation sector.

Anatoly Karlin is a transhumanist interested in psychometrics, life extension, UBI, crypto/network states, X risks, and ushering in the Biosingularity.


Inventor of Idiot’s Limbo, the Katechon Hypothesis, and Elite Human Capital.


Apart from writing booksreviewstravel writing, and sundry blogging, I Tweet at @powerfultakes and run a Substack newsletter.


  1. Budd Dwyer says

    Is this commercial air accidents or is there no general civilian aviation to speak of? By comparison, the U.S. averages over 200 fatalities in general aviation in the U.S. ( Also, this graph doesn’t include Russian commercial air carriers in other countries (e.g., 224 killed when terrorists blow up Metrojet in 2016).

  2. Jaakko Raipala says

    Accident fatalities per aircraft operator

    1 Aeroflot – Russian International Airlines 11055
    2 United States Air Force – USAF (since 1947) 8261
    3 Royal Air Force – RAF 7067
    4 United States Army Air Forces – USAAF (1941-1947) 6840
    5 United States Navy – USN 3994
    6 Air France 1756
    7 Pan American World Airways – PAA 1655
    8 American Airlines 1454
    9 Soviet Air Force – Voyenno-vozdushnye sily CCCP 1295
    10 United Airlines 1217

    (yes, I know it’s not an entirely fair comparison since the USSR didn’t have the multiple competing airlines that the US has)

  3. reiner Tor says

    Both Superjet accidents were pilot errors, though both included multiple people making dumb decisions. The Indonesian accident had the captain chatting with prospective clients while turning off auto pilot flying low near mountains under low visibility conditions. It was surely not his fault only – many people must have been involved in the decision to have the clients in the cockpit during such a dangerous situation (not least the clients themselves), but clearly the pilot was stupid to let this happen.

    There was the Pulkovo Flight 612, which was also due to pilot error (which was partly caused by a lack of simulators), or the infamous accident where the auto pilot was accidentally deactivated by… the pilot’s son, who – against all regulations – was allowed into the cockpit, and the pilot seat, to boot.

  4. reiner Tor says

    This accident a week ago also was probably caused by a number of pilot errors, and the firefighters arriving late was caused by the ground crew. The pilot should’ve waited longer to burn the fuel (apparently dumping fuel is impossible on small planes). Then he suddenly accelerated for unknown reasons right before touchdown and touched down in the middle of the airstrip at a very high speed. He also forgot to stop the engines after touchdown, which made the fire stronger.

  5. Vishnugupta says

    Superjet is non competitive due to its poor engine choice French Snecma Sam146..It is something like 10-12% less efficient than the PW GTF which powers the Embraer E2 and Mitsubishi regional jet as well as Bombardier(now Airbus) C series..

    Then there are other things like maintenance services and brand reputation but any new company in this field will have these problems.

    The aircrash is unlikely to be much of a concern to a prospective airline.The first crash was completely pilot error/stupidity turning off auto pilot and then flying low over mountainous terrain in poor visibility. Besides that was a pre production prototype.

    So we are basically talking about one aircrash in 7 years of operation…

  6. Swarthy Greek says

    I find it remarkable that the soviet air force has so few accidents compared to the USAF and the RAF, especially since Russian and Soviet armed forces have long been criticized for spending way too little on maintenance. Any explanation for this apart from Russian bias?

  7. jimmyriddle says

    It would be interesting to see that graph normalized against the rate of accidents in western airlines.

    Flying is much safer than it used to be. So many famous people in the 50s and 60s died in air crashes – Buddy Holly, Otis Reading, Jim Reves, Patsy Cline etc. That hardly ever happens now.

    I would guess that the relative accident rate of Russian airlines spiked up in the 90s and has since been converging back.

  8. reiner Tor says

    This crash a week ago was also mostly pilot error despite the electronics failure after the lightning strike. It was also not a full crash, almost half of the passengers survived, so it’s still much safer than the 737 MAX.

    The Safran engine has reliability and spare parts availability issues, too.

  9. My guess would be flight hours. VVS doesn’t fly as much. Same as for Aeroflot looking bad – they used to fly everyone in USSR and their dog, lots of flight hours for them.

    Regarding SSJ100, I think it’s a fine plane, the engine do have coking issues, but they are thinking of switching to all Russian design (something like PD-14), this should make troubleshooting easier.

    Where Russia sucks though is maintenance service. Selling a plane is one thing, keeping spare parts on hand is something Sukhoi Civil needs to learn to take seriously. No parts means no flying and no flying means no airline wants your plane.

    Russia needs to copy Airbus/Being service center excellence – those two keep Russian airlines in air 3-4 times longer than Sukhoi Civil can. (SSJ 3-4 hours of flight daily, Boeing/Airbus -10-12 hours of flight daily). And that’s in Russia, so it’s not some sort national mechanic deficiency. Its ridiculous.

    Russia can design and make good planes, it just needs to keep them in the air longer. Only then Russia will be internationally competitive.

  10. Hmm, sometimes my comments get eaten and sometimes not. Strange.

    Anyway, SSJ100 is a good plane, it does have some engine coking issues, but if they go to an all Russian design (something like PD-14), it should make troubleshooting easier.

    Where Sukhoi Civil needs to improve is maintenance service. Airbus and Boeing can keep Russian airlines flying 10 to 12 hours per plane per day because they have spare parts logistics and mechanics working smoothly. Sukhoi only manages 3 to 4 hours daily uptime due to lack of parts and service.

    Russia can design and build good planes, but to be globally competitive, Russia needs them flying longer.

  11. Budd Dwyer says

    I find it remarkable that the soviet air force has so few accidents compared to the USAF and the RAF, especially since Russian and Soviet armed forces have long been criticized for spending way too little on maintenance. Any explanation for this apart from Russian bias?

    Exponentially more air operations by U.S. & U.K.

  12. Swarthy Greek says

    The PD-8 will still take a lot of time to be worked out, and by then the SSJ 100 will have lost too many customers. OAK should have also offered a western engine alternative P-W/GE/RR instead of sticking with a single supplier (Powerjet and soon Perm), just like in the MS-21.

  13. Jaakko Raipala says

    I think we can safely assume that military numbers are all undercounted because details of a lot of crashes haven’t been released, especially test flights of new planes which are the most likely to crash. The Soviets would have been more secretive than the Americans while the RAF would have been particularly open about military crashes for some reason and that’s why they’re so far above countries of similar size and military capabilities (eg. France).

    I suppose it’s also possible that the USSR didn’t have as strict of a division to military and civilian operations so that flights that would have been under some military operator in the West were under Aeroflot.

  14. Western engines might get banned for export to Russia. Frankly, the way West-Russia relations are going I wouldn’t be surprised to see Boeing and Airbus getting sanctioned by US government for its Russian operations in a few years. Which is why domestic development should be considered a very high priority.

    Two things will matter going forward – space technology and aviation. If Russia falls behind in either it will get screwed big time.

  15. Gefreiter says

    Russian passenger jet gets struck by lightning and loses all its electronic control then crashes. This is their newest jet, the great white hope against Boeing and Airbus take over of Russian aviation industry. The IP booty in this industry is one big reason why Israel is so horny for a war between Russia and the US.

    Boeing, whose 737-Max is a flying dodo bird, is facing billions in losses due to penalties, legal fees and court decisions. All the dirty tricks Boeing has played to coerce the FAA to license the 737Max to fly are coming home to roost.

    Many Airbus crashes have been very fishy, that A320 that crashed into a French mountain comes to mind. Then there is MH17 and Northwood.

    I would give it even odds that this lightning strike was a DEW hit aimed to distract from Boeing’s ineptitude and to punish the Russian aviation industry.

    I will just add a link to Mental Boosts Youtube page, where is has assembled all kinds of Notre Dame fire high res footage that proves that Notre Dame was hit by DEW’s:

  16. Jaakko Raipala says

    But what we really want to know is… can DEWs melt steel beams?

  17. John Burns, Gettysburg Partisan says

    Really, Russia should thank Air France for making Aeroflot 593 look a bit less aggressively asinine and terrible.

    That was the Aeroflot accident where the idiot pilot put his son at the controls …. I always thought that that was unbeatable

    But Air France Flight 447 was amazing and horrifying as an example of “deer in the headlights” panic under pressure. It’s literally incredible that it took them so long to figure out they were stalling the airplane.

    By the way, the other great competitor for stupidest air flight tragedy has to be Korean Air Cargo Flight 6316.

    What kind of pilot aggressively nose-dives his plane to lose altitude when he’s already low?

    There’s an old joke that one should never fly Korean Air unless one wants one’s obituary to read, “Killed by racial stereotypes.”

  18. John Burns, Gettysburg Partisan says

    …infamous accident where the auto pilot was accidentally deactivated by… the pilot’s son, who – against all regulations – was allowed into the cockpit, and the pilot seat, to boot.

    Yeah, Aeroflot 593 was just so AGGRESSIVELY ASININE that it made all of Russian aviation look bad. I feel bad for the poor Russian pilot bastards who actually did/do their jobs well.

  19. John Burns, Gettysburg Partisan says

    Many Airbus crashes have been very fishy, that A320 that crashed into a French mountain comes to mind.

    The only A320 I know of having crashed into a French mountain was Germanwings Flight 9525.

    The official story there is that the co-pilot was a suicidal basket-case who locked himself in the cockpit and purposefully crashed the plane.

    I’ve never seen you post here before. It could just be that you’re a loon. But that’s okay too. Loons are interesting.

  20. Did the Luftwaffe have a remarkably good safety record before they bought the F-104?:

  21. Vishnugupta says

    Well I am not so sure we can classify it as pilot error.

    The avionics failed after a lightning strike. That should never happen and frankly I have never heard of such a thing happening on modern planes.

    Sure the pilot panicked(who wouldn’t?) and could theoretically with the benefit of hindsight avoided the tragedy but if he was not trained for this eventuality and had no simulator experience on such a scenario then we cannot really blame him.

    Yes the Safran engine was a very poor choice and the fact that only the ssj uses it means no economies of scale and spare parts shortages…

  22. reiner Tor says

    The avionics failed after a lightning strike. That should never happen and frankly I have never heard of such a thing happening on modern planes.

    That part was the electronics failure I mentioned. But airplanes normally shouldn’t crash after the auto pilot fails, the pilot should be able to land manually.

    Sure the pilot panicked(who wouldn’t?)

    Any well-trained pilot wouldn’t panic. I’m not sure why a pilot should automatically panic when the plane is still flyable. Pilots should be able to manually fly planes. It’s precisely the opposite of the 737 MAX crash.

    By the way it’s not even clear if this one pilot panicked at all. While radio communication was difficult, it seemed that their communications were leisurely enough, the crash itself came as a surprise both to him and to ground control. (This doesn’t excuse ground control for not ordering the firefighters immediately in.)

    if he was not trained for this eventuality and had no simulator experience on such a scenario

    You mean, if he was not trained to land the plane manually while there was little wind and good visibility at the airport? Then why was he even there?

    The avionics failed after a lightning strike. That should never happen and frankly I have never heard of such a thing happening on modern planes.

    A guy who used to work for Malév Hungarian Airlines before its bankruptcy told me that there is a reason why after a lightning strike the plane is examined thoroughly, and that crews never like lightning strikes. While theoretically nothing should happen to the plane, some sticking out instruments might get damaged, like pitot tubes (which might in turn trigger the auto pilot to disengage), but probably you never hear of these, because the worst thing that could happen is the airplane returns to the airport.

    See this quora:

    The guy specifically mentions radio or antenna failure. Probably you never hear of a plane crashing due to lightning because the pilots flying manually can easily land the plane afterwards, since there should be no mechanical failure, just a few instruments (which might include the radios).

    Regarding the May 5 disaster, the pilot for unknown reasons didn’t circle above Moscow to burn the fuel (so landed with full fuel), greatly increased engine output right before touchdown, which resulted in the touchdown happening in the middle of the airstrip (significantly later than normal), and also the bumping up and down, then forgot to turn off the engines after touchdown. These actions (or lack of them) resulted in the tragedy itself. You probably wouldn’t have heard of the accident if the pilot made no errors, and I don’t think it’s with hindsight only that, for example, if there is a fire in the engine, I try to stop it (so that at least the fuel pumps stop feeding the fire). Even in a car, that’s pretty basic and could be expected of untrained regular drivers. For example there was a BMW engine fire where the driver couldn’t stop the engine (it was manual, so he should’ve put it into 5th gear while breaking and then he might’ve stopped it, but he didn’t think of this possibility), but surely he tried. Is it not a basic instinct?

    Overall, I agree that the pilot was probably poorly trained, so we shouldn’t really blame him, rather Aeroflot. And yes, it’s possible that there was some SSJ-related issue, but even so, the avionics failure shouldn’t have automatically led to the crash. And it didn’t, it needed a number of poor decisions by the pilot.

  23. Vishnugupta says

    It would depend on how much manual control was available. I am not familiar with the way fly by wire is implemented on the SSJ but it could be that the mechanical controls were not completely hydraulics based but were dependent on electrical motors to complement the hydraulics (like in the 787) causing the plane to fly in the manual mode differently than what he was trained for with the electrical systems shorted out. For all we know the pilot could even be a hero..

  24. Swarthy Greek says

    Russia has some interesting projects in the civilian aviation domain (PD-14 and its derivatives, Ms-21 and the CR-929). OAK and UEC have received significant capital investments the last decade so there is still hope.
    However I don’t see how Russia can compete in the space sector with the US. Soviet legacy platforms are becoming obsolete ( e.g:Proton) and the new platforms (Angara,Soyuz-5) are expensive and technologically one generation behind SpaceX,ULA (spacecraft and 2nd stage engine) and Blue Origin.

  25. Russia is definitely NOT behind US in space technology. Lower stages (Angara, Soyuz 5 etc just need to be powerful enough, and some of can be reusable going forward (see Angara-Baikal boosters), but that’s not really where the future is.

    NASA will be using Russian SPT 140 Hall effect thrusters for the upcoming Psyche mission, and while US has developed similar technology, this and solar sails will be the future for small satellite type missions.

    For larger craft, nuclear thermal is the only way to go (doubling the efficiency vs chemical rocket), and Roscosmos is working on that too. Musk and Bezos do have great ideas (I like methane rocket concept if it can be fueled on Mars), and reusability is also cool, but for space travel you need power that they don’t currently have.

    US is also working on things like VASIMR and steam rockets (the latter don’t have good ISP but if all you need is ice, you can refuel anywhere in space- huge advantage), so it’s not like Russians are some sort of clear leaders, and this needs to start getting in deployment phase in the near future, but I dont think Russia is a generation behind.

    Musk and Bezos do get a lot more marketing hype though, Russian marketing is not too good.

  26. reiner Tor says

    Well, there’s a remote chance that basically nothing worked on board, like no instruments etc., but at this point it doesn’t strike me as the likeliest explanation. I think that if the hydraulics rely on electrical motors, then there should be training for what happens when there’s no electricity onboard. Though we know for sure that there was electricity onboard – in the video made by a passenger you can hear the seat belts off signal, so clearly there was some electricity.

    There’s also the leaked conversation between ground control and the pilot – basically, they seem to be relaxed until touchdown, when the pilot uses some expletives. (I guess it’s the second pilot who talks to ground control, while the captain is flying.)

    The most likely explanation is that the plane was perfectly manually flyable, and that at least most of the instruments were still working. (Maybe not enough for the auto pilot. One takeaway from the AF447 tragedy is that auto pilots can disengage after just one instrument failure, so auto pilot disengaging doesn’t mean that all onboard systems failed. It’s not even very likely.)

    So I think the most likely theory is still essentially human error:

    1) the lightning caused problems with the radio, and maybe burned down a pitot tube or AOA sensor or maybe a few such instruments; this might actually be a Superjet issue (either bad or cheap design, or bad quality manufacturing)

    2) the plane, however, remained manually flyable; nevertheless, communications was difficult, and since there was clearly some failure, emergency should’ve been and was declared

    3) then, either ground control failed to notify the firefighters, or the firefighters were sleeping

    4) then, it was decided that the plane would land immediately, without waiting a couple hours to burn some fuel; that might’ve been the correct decision, if there were reasons to believe that the plane was barely functioning, but at this point I doubt it was the case; I think it should’ve been possible to keep flying and then land a couple hours later

    5) then, the landing was hard; the proximate cause was too high (and oddly increased) speed, but it might’ve been the result of a too high angle of attack (which would, again, be pilot error), which necessitated an increase in engine output

    6) after the hard landing, the pilot forgot to stop the engines, which resulted in an even greater fire

  27. Gerard1234 says

    So we are basically talking about one aircrash in 7 years of operation…

    Correct – although it has to be said…where are the commercial flight crashes in China? There has been an exponential increase in domestic flights there in the last decade but, unless I am mistaken, they have a perfect safety record. South Africa has 3 big cities in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban but I can’t recall there being ANY safety incidents after the end of Apartheid

    I think American commercial airlines flight distance km covered per year is about 7-8 times more than in Russia.

  28. jbwilson24 says

    ” I don’t see how Russia can compete in the space sector with the US.”

    You don’t? Do you read many articles here?

    The answer is easy: IQ over time. Russia’s IQ is decreasing at half the rate of IQ in the west. Soon NASA will be full of pajeets and blue haired feminists who together will be incapable of putting a golf ball in an outhouse.

    Which is not to say Russia’s abilities won’t decline, but they will sure be better in 40 years than those of a Muslim Germany, Muslim Sweden, or Latino USA.