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Saratov Airlines flight carrying 71 crashes outside Moscow

Saratov Airlines, RA-61703, Antonov An-148-100B. Image: Flickr/Anna Zvereva

An An-148 flying from Moscow’s Domodedovo Airport to Orsk, near the Kazakhstan border, has crashed outside Moscow at around 2:30 p.m. on February 11, according to Russian media reports. Both Interfax and TASS report the plane had 71 people onboard, 65 passengers and six crew. Emergency officials have found debris from the flight, and there are believed to be no survivors.

Flight tracking website FlightRadar24 reports the airplane used in the flight with registration number RA-61704 is a 7-year-old Antonov An-148. The An-148 is a relatively new plane; its first flight occurred in 2004, and was introduced into service in 2009. Russian state airline Rossiya, an early adopter of the An-148, criticized the plane early in its career for being unreliable and having a number of issues including with its door locks, engines, and auxiliary power units. The only known fatal incident involving the An-148 was on March 5 2011, in which the flight crew accelerated the plane over 60 knots past its design specifications.

Sunday’s plane crash is the first fatal commercial passenger jet crash in 2018 and the first after an unprecedented 440 days.

Flight tracking data from FlightAware appears to show the Saratov Airlines flight reached a maximum altitude of 6,200 feet before dropping off radar just seven minutes after takeoff. The data, tracked using the plane’s ADS-B signal, shows a descent from 6,200 feet to 3,200 feet before the signal was lost.

Weather data from Domodedovo shows sub-freezing temperatures of -5 Celsius (23 degrees Fahrenheit) when flight was lost, with overcast clouds around 2,600 feet.

Interfax reports that emergency responders are investigating reports the plane crashed near Stepanovo in the Noginsky District of Moscow Oblast, approximately 43 miles southeast of Moscow.

The Russian air transport authority, Rosaviatsia, is launching an unscheduled inspection of Saratov Airlines, according to Interfax citing the body’s leader Alexander Neradko. Rosaviatsia will also be inspecting Domodedovo Airport.

The Russian Investigative Committee said it’s main department for high-profile cases will handle the investigation. The committee’s director Alexander Bastrykin was en route to the crash site on Sunday afternoon, according to Interfax.

The cause of the crash has yet to be found.

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