Saratov Airlines Flight 703 came to a tragic end over the weekend when the Antonov AN-148 went down 50 miles south of Moscow with no explanation. All 71 souls aboard – 65 passengers and six crew members – were killed in the incident. Investigators are now working to piece together why and how 6W703 came down.
Russian investigators are working to piece together why a Saratov Airlines Antonov AN-148 flew erratically on Sunday, February 11, 2018, before coming to a crash 50 miles south of Moscow. The New York Times reports that Saratov Airlines Flight 703 went down near the Russian capital, killing all 71 souls on board.
According to a playback of the flight from FlightRadar24, the aircraft took off normally from Moscow Domodedovo Airport (DME), bound for Orsk Airport (OSW) near the Russia-Kazakhstan border. Instead of climbing to their normal cruising altitude of around 30,000 feet, the regional jet instead struggled to reach 6,000 feet, climbing regularly until the final moments.
Russian authorities claim that the aircraft lost radio contact with the aircraft “several minutes after takeoff,” followed by a loss of radar contact. While no cause has been immediately identified, reports suggest at least one flight data recorder has been recovered.
A list of those believed to be aboard the flight shows three children, as well as citizens of three countries: Azerbaijan, Russia and Switzerland. While the majority of passengers of 6W703 came from Moscow or Orsk, four of the six crew members came from the airline’s home in Saratov. Russian investigators are using DNA samples to confirm the identities of those killed in the crash.
Saratov Airlines was originally founded as Saratov United Air Squad in 1931 with a fleet of 12 aircraft. The airline had the distinction of becoming the first airline in Russia to operate the Embraer E-Jet aircraft. Prior to this incident, the airline received multiple safety warnings: in 2015, the airline’s rights to operate international flights were terminated over safety concerns of individuals in the cockpit, but was resolved in six months. In December 2017, the airline also received another safety warning for flammable material storage on the ground.