Russian 'miracle' crash plane flies again

24th March 2011, Comments 0 comments

The Soviet-era plane that made a miraculous emergency landing in the Russian taiga last year took to the skies again Thursday after serving for six months as an tourist attraction in a village.

The Tu-154 plane was headed to Moscow last September when its electrical systems failed midflight, and pilots noticed at the last moment an old landing strip in the forest near Izhma, a village in the northern Komi region.

The crew managed to land the plane without casualties.

It was not clear whether the owner of the plane Alrosa Mirny plans to resume using it on passenger flights. The plane was flown to the closest functioning airport, and will be taken to an aviation plant in Samara, the company said.

Its two engines and the chassis have been replaced, according to the Channel One report.

The report showed a man wearing a harness pour antifreeze on the plane's tail from a green watering can. The take-off was met with applause and cheering.

To be able to take off from the shorter strip, which was built for small planes but has not been used since 2003, the Tu-154 had only 11 tons of fuel.

Locals met the departure of the miracle plane with sadness. "The number of tourists over the past months was unprecedented. We wanted to make a museum," said head of the local veteran group Alexei Rochev, RIA Novosti reported.

"But if it can continue carrying passengers, let it. Local kids now dream of becoming pilots, like the pilots that saved people's lives by landing here," he said.

A segment of Izhma's strip is used only several times a year for helicopter landings, but its head Sergei Sotnikov continued to take care of the entire facility on his own funds, chopping trees and forbidding mushroom pickers to park their cars there, he told Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper.

Russian Internet bloggers pitched in earlier this year to purchase the local unsung hero a snowmobile.

The Tu-154 crew received an official thank-you from President Dmitry Medvedev last November, with the two pilots awarded the prestigious Hero of Russia medal.

© 2011 AFP

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