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Plane crash puts Russia's airline industry in spotlight - again

A Russian plane carrying only crew slid off the runway and crashed yesterday, the latest in a steady stream of such incidents that has given Russia one of the world's worst air traffic safety records.

By Alissa de CarbonnelReuters / December 30, 2012

Rescuers work at the site of careered off the runway plane at Vnukovo Airport in Moscow, Saturday. A Tu-204 aircraft belonging to Russian airline Red Wings careered off the runway at Russia's third-busiest airport on Saturday, broke into pieces and caught fire, killing several people.

Ivan Sekretarev/AP

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Moscow

A Russian airliner flying without passengers broke into pieces after it slid off the runway and crashed onto a highway outside Moscow upon landing on Saturday, killing four of the eight crew on board and leaving smoking chunks of fuselage on the icy road.

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The crash during peak holiday travel ahead of Russia's New Year's vacation, which runs from Sunday through Jan. 9, cast a spotlight on the country's poor air safety record despite President Vladimir Putin's calls to improve controls.

Television footage showed the Tupolev Tu-204 jet with smoke billowing from the tail end and the cockpit broken clean off the front.

Some witnesses told state channel Rossiya-24 they saw a man thrown from the plane as it rammed into the barrier of the highway outside Vnukovo airport, just southwest of the capital, and another described pulling other people from the wreckage.

"The plane split into three pieces," Yelena Krylova, chief spokeswoman for the airport, said in televised comments.

Police spokesman Gennady Bogachyov said: "The plane went off the runway, broke through the barrier, and caught fire."

The pilot, co-pilot, flight engineer, and a flight attendant were killed and the other four crew members aboard – all flight attendants – were in a serious condition in the hospital with head injuries, the Emergency Situations Ministry said.

Officials said earlier that there were 12 crew on board.

The mid-range Tu-204 was operated by Russian airline Red Wings and was traveling from the Czech Republic, Krylova said.

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