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Last updated: 27 July 2016
Date:Thursday 29 August 1996
Type:Silhouette image of generic T154 model; specific model in this crash may look slightly different
Tupolev 154M
Operator:Vnukovo Airlines
Registration: RA-85621
C/n / msn: 86A-742
First flight: 1986
Engines: 3 Soloviev D-30KU-154-II
Crew:Fatalities: 11 / Occupants: 11
Passengers:Fatalities: 130 / Occupants: 130
Total:Fatalities: 141 / Occupants: 141
Airplane damage: Destroyed
Airplane fate: Written off (damaged beyond repair)
Location:14,3 km (8.9 mls) from Svalbard-Longyearbyen Airport (LYR) (   Norway)
Crash site elevation: 907 m (2976 feet) amsl
Phase: Approach (APR)
Nature:Int'l Non Scheduled Passenger
Departure airport:Moskva-Vnukovo Airport (VKO/UUWW), Russia
Destination airport:Svalbard-Longyearbyen Airport (LYR/ENSB), Norway
Vnukovo Airlines flight VKO 2801 departed Vnukovo Airport at 04:44 GMT bound for Svalbard Airport Longyear. It was a chartered flight with workers and their families to coal mining towns at Svalbard. The flight was normal until the start of the descent. Before radio contact with Longyear Information, the crew went through the detailed landing procedure for runway 10. At 09:56, the crew were cleared to start the descent. A little later, the crew received additional information consisting of runway in use 28, wind 230deg at 16 knots, visibility more than 10 km, rain showers, clouds: few at 1500 feet, scattered at 2000 feet and broken at 4000 feet, temp. 5degC, dewpoint -0deg C and QNH 1005 hPa. (Later changed to 1006 hPa).
The crew tried to request runway 10 for landing twice, but the request was not understood as such by Longyear Information due to language difficulties.
When the flight was overhead the ADV beacon, at 10:15 hrs, the crew reported the position
to Longyear Information and entered the base turn with a bank angle of 22deg. At 10:16 hrs, the aircraft came out of this turn on magnetic heading 160deg. During the right turn to the base turn, a malfunction occurred in the electric trimming mechanism, which was corrected by the crew.
At 10:17, the crew started the turn to bring the aircraft out on the magnetic inbound course 300deg, as prescribed by the approach chart. The distance from the airport at this moment was 14 NM (25.9 km), as prescribed by the approach chart, but the lateral deviation from the outbound magnetic course 155deg from ADV was 2 NM (3.7 km) to the left.
At 10:18, after the radio altimeter aural warning had been activated twice, the co-pilot took the controls and, after 6 seconds, turned the autopilot pitch channel off by 'overriding' it. From then on until the impact, the flight continued in autopilot mode in the roll channel, and in manual mode in the pitch channel.
The aircraft passed through the localizer centerline and when the turn had been completed, the aircraft rolled out on a magnetic heading of 290deg. At this time, there was a discussion within the crew as to whether or not the final turn had been made at the correct time. The discussion led to the roll out of the turn to final approach and a corrective turn to the right to magnetic heading 306deg. At this point, the aircraft was 14.7 NM (27.4 km) from the airport, 2.8 km to the right of the approach centerline, maintaining an altitude of 5000 feet (1520 m ) and the crew increased the flap setting to 28deg. The airspeed was reduced to approx. 330 km/hr (180 kt).
Instead of intercepting the centerline, the crew continued the flight on the right side, more or less paralleling the localizer course with minor heading changes.
At 10:20 the flight made a corrective turn, resulting in a track close to 300deg. At this point, the lateral deviation from the approach centerline was 3.7 km to the right. During this corrective turn, the aircraft started descending.
At 10:21, the crew made yet another corrective turn to the right. At 10:22:05, the aircraft started turning towards the left. The distance to the airport was 8 NM (14.8 km). On this part of the final approach, the aircraft apparently entered an area of strong turbulence created by the proximity to the mountains. The GPWS then activated 9 seconds before impact. The crew reacted to this by applying power and initiating a pitch-up. At 10:22:23, 7.7 NM (14.2 km) from the airport at an altitude of 2975 feet (907 m), the aircraft collided with the top of the mountain Operafjellet 3.7 km to the right of the approach centerline.
Eighteen significant factors have been identified as leading the flight to the disaster.
For example, inadequate planning, unsatisfactory crew resource management and monitoring, a lack of a suitable procedure for offset localizer approaches in connection with an inappropriate rule requiring the landing course to be set instead of the localizer course, not solving navigational problems at safe altitude, not discontinuing the approach when procedural uncertainties exist, limited knowledge of the operating language and the actual airspace with respect to service given.


Controlled Flight Into Terrain (CFIT) - Mountain

» SKYbrary 
» Report on the accident to Vnukovo Airline's Tupolev Tu-154M RA 85621 near Svalbard Airport Longyear, Norway on 29 August 1996 (Rep 07/99) / The Aircraft Accident Investigation Board/Norway (AAIB/N)
» S.W.Steen (CAA Norway)
» Scramble 208


photo of Tupolev 154M RA-85621
RA-85621 flew for BosnaAir in 1992 before returning to Aeroflot. It moved to Vnukovo Airlines in 1994.
Add your photo of this accident or aircraft

This map shows the airport of departure and the intended destination of the flight. The line between the airports does not display the exact flight path.
Distance from Moskva-Vnukovo Airport to Svalbard-Longyearbyen Airport as the crow flies is 2632 km (1645 miles).

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Tupolev 154

  • 48th loss
  • 1026 built
  • 5th worst accident (at the time)
  • 8th worst accident (currently)
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