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Miraculous escape for passengers
Plane was carrying 72 passengers, nine crew members
It suffered a complete failure of electrical power
MOSCOW: A Russian airliner with 81 people on board made a miraculous safe landing in the Siberian taiga after all its systems failed.
The Tupolev-154 aircraft, carrying 72 passengers and nine crew members, was on its way from the town of Mirny in Yakutia, northeastern Siberia, to Moscow on Tuesday when it suffered a complete failure of electrical power at an altitude of 10,600 metres.
The pilots had just half an hour to make an emergency landing before they ran out of fuel as pumps feeding fuel from wing tanks to the central collector tank and engines shut down. Radio and navigation equipment also failed. The aircraft descended to 3,000 metres before the pilots could see the ground below clouds and look for a suitable landing site. The nearest one was an abandoned military airfield at Izhma in the thick of the taiga, 1500 km east of Moscow.
The short landing strip was covered by green vegetation, as the airfield had not been used for more than ten years.
On a third attempt the pilots managed to hit the runway, landing the 80-tonne aircraft at a high speed after its wing flaps failed too. The plane overran the 1,300-metre runway by 250 metres, chopping off the tops of small trees before coming to a halt in a bog.
None of the passengers or crew suffered any injuries in what aviation experts said was a miraculous escape.
The passengers were transferred in four helicopters to a local airport 100 km away from where they flew to Moscow aboard another Tu-154.
Even though the stricken aircraft did not sustain major damage it is likely to be written off and remain on site as the runway where it landed is only half the length it needs to take off.
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