Russia probes 'dancing' jet caught on video
Russian military prosecutors launched an investigation on Wednesday after an amateur video captured a defence ministry jet lurching terrifyingly out of control in skies close to Moscow.
Videos of the Tupolev jet posted on YouTube by witnesses show the plane twisting from side to side uncontrollably before pilots manage to land it safely at a military aerodrome outside Moscow.
"The military prosecutors have launched a probe which should establish the reasons for the mid-air incident that almost led to an aviation disaster," a spokesman for the chief military prosecutor's office told the RIA Novosti news agency on Wednesday.
The Tu-154 plane, dating back to the 1960s, was dubbed the "dancing plane" by bloggers.
The spokesman for the chief military prosecutor's office told RIA Novosti that the plane's steering system had malfunctioned and praised the pilots for managing to land safely in a built-up area.
"During a test flight, the steering system broke down on the TU-154B-2 plane belonging to the Defence Ministry's 800th air base," the spokesman said.
"Thanks to the great professionalism and supreme skill of the pilots, the crew managed to land on the second attempt at Chkalovsk aerodrome, avoiding casualties among the airforce and the local population."
The video posted on April 30, which has been watched more than 380,000 times, says that the plane was being flown for the first time after a 10-year break.
The video can be seen at at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mM9UM33EKqY
The ageing Tupolev 154 planes, first flown in 1968 and used by Aeroflot until 2009, have been involved in a number of air accidents in recent years.
The aircraft's last major fatal crash was on April last year, when a Tu-154 carrying Polish president Lech Kaczynski and other top officials came down in fog near the Russian city of Smolensk.
In September a Tu-154 plane made a miraculous emergency landing on a derelict airstrip in the remote Komi region after its electrical systems failed midflight.
This year, the spectacular display of Russian military aviation that usually accompanies the Victory Day parade on Red Square on May 9 has been cancelled, according to media reports, in an apparent cost-cutting measure.
© 2011 AFP