Russia assures travellers after jet grounding

3rd January 2011, Comments 0 comments

Russia's transport oversight agency said Monday that its decision to ground some of the workhorse Tu-154 aircraft following a deadly jet explosion would not jeopardise the country's air travel.

One of the older models of the Tupolev jet burst into flames while reading for takeoff in a Siberian oil town on Saturday in an accident that killed three people and injured more than 30 others.

The latest disaster to affect Russia's maligned aviation industry prompted a series of top-level government meetings that concluded with a Sunday evening decision to ground the older B model of the Soviet-era jet.

But the Federal Transport Oversight Agency stressed Monday that the order affected only 14 of the hundreds of Tu-154 jets that fly post-Soviet skies.

"The introduction of temporary restriction on the use of the Tu-154B-2 aircraft will not affect the commercial activity of the Russian airlines that use them," an agency spokesman told the state-run RIA Novosti news agency.

"Their temporary removal from operations will not impact airline performance as a whole," said the spokesman. "They have things with which to replace them."

Russian news reports said the Kolavia airline jet that exploded in Surgut was manufactured in 1983 and had last undergone renovations 12 years ago.

Tu-154B jets were manufactured between 1975 and 1986 before being replaced by the updated M model more commonly used today.

A Kolavia airline spokesman told Russian state television that the faulty jet had been due to be taken out of commission in 2013.

Investigators into the accident have also reported launching a criminal probe that focused on the type of fuel loaded onto the craft.

© 2011 AFP

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