Russia says pilot error caused hockey team plane crash

Russian air safety experts blame pilot error for the plane crash that killed Lokomotiv Yaroslavl hockey players, including three Czechs

Staff Writer | 03.11.2011
The last Lokomotiv Yaroslavl team photo, taken days before the plane crash

Russian air experts have blamed pilot error for a Sept. 7 plane crash that killed 44 people, nearly all members of the top ice hockey team Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, including three Czechs, saying that one of the two pilots in the cockpit had also taken a banned medication, news agencies reported from Moscow.

During take off from the central Russian city of Yaroslavl two months ago, one of the pilots accidentally pressed down the brakes, the Interstate Aviation Committee (MAK) said in a report published Wednesday on its website.

“The direct cause of the crash of the Yak-42 plane … were the mistaken actions of the crew in pressing the brake pedals,” said the report, the latest in a series to blame air crashes on human error rather than aging Soviet-designed aircraft, as cited by the French news agency AFP. ‘The direct cause of the crash of the Yak-42 plane … were the mistaken actions of the crew in pressing the brake pedals.’

MAK said the pilots could have put their feet on the brake pedals during takeoff because they were more used to flying another plane with that foot position. The aircrew could have aborted the takeoff and stopped safely within the runway, the report added.

The postmortem also found that the second pilot had taken Phenobarbital, a barbiturate medication banned for use by pilots that would have slowed down his reactions.

Czech players Jan Marek, Karel Раchůnek and Josef Vašíšek died in the crash, along with prominent Russian and other foreign players and staff, including the team’s Canadian coach Brad McCrimmon. Lokomotiv Yaroslavl was bound for Minsk, Belarus, to play their opening game of the 2011-2012 season.

See related article: Transcript reveals new details of Lokomotiv Yaroslavl crash 

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