A Russian AN-26 aeroplane with at least 28 people on board has gone missing in Kamchatka Peninsula in Russia’s far east, news agencies cited regional authorities as saying.
It was flying from Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky to Palana in the Kamchatka Peninsula when it did not make a scheduled call-in, the Interfax, RIA and TASS news agencies quoted local officials as saying on Tuesday.
The plane lost contact with air traffic control while attempting to land, TASS separately cited a source as saying.
Valentina Glazova, a spokeswoman for the local transport prosecutor’s office, said
“search and rescue efforts are underway”.
“All that is known at this time, what has been possible to establish, is that communication with the plane was interrupted and it did not land,”
Glazova told AFP news agency.
Among those on board are six crew members and 22 passengers, including one child, local officials were quoted as saying.
The plane belonged to a company called Kamchatka Aviation Enterprise. The plane has been in operation since 1982, Tass reported. The company’s director, Alexei Khabarov, told the Interfax news agency that the plane was technically sound.
There were conflicting reports of what may have happened, with RIA reporting the plane crashed into the sea off the Kamchatka peninsula as it was preparing to land.
Several ships were en route to the crash site, RIA cited emergency services as saying.
Interfax meanwhile reported the plane may have gone down near a coal mine close to the town of Palana.
The plane was on approach for landing when contact was lost about 10 kilometers (six miles) away from Palana’s airport. The head of the local government in Palana, Olga Mokhireva, was aboard the flight, spokespeople of the Kamchatka government said.
The weather in the area was cloudy at the time, Interfax reported, quoting the local meteorology centre.
Russia, once notorious for plane accidents, has improved its air traffic safety record in recent years.
But poor aircraft maintenance and lax safety standards still persist, and the country has seen several deadly air accidents in recent years.
The last major air accident took place in May 2019, when a Sukhoi Superjet belonging to the flag carrier airline Aeroflot crash-landed and caught fire on the runway of a Moscow airport, killing 41 people.
In February 2018, a Saratov Airlines An-148 aircraft crashed near Moscow shortly after take-off, killing all 71 people on board. An investigation later concluded that the accident was caused by human error.
Russia also frequently experiences non-fatal air incidents that result in re-routed flights and emergency landings, usually stemming from technical issues.
In August 2019, a Ural Airlines flight carrying more than 230 people made a miracle landing in a Moscow corn field after a flock of birds were sucked into the engines shortly after take-off.
In February 2020, a Utair Boeing 737 carrying 100 people crash-landed on its belly in northern Russia after its landing system malfunctioned. All of the flight’s passengers and its crew survived.
Flying in Russia can also be dangerous in the vast country’s isolated regions with difficult weather conditions such as the Arctic and the Far East