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Here's How Exhausted Soviet Pilots Caused An Airplane To Drop Out Of The Sky Like A Stone

Screenshot: <a class="link " href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OAWxfsWBch0" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Paper Skies/YouTube;elm:context_link;itc:0;sec:content-canvas">Paper Skies/YouTube</a>

Soviet machines are a special interest of mine, which is why I was surprised I’d never heard the tragic tale of Aeroflot Flight 5143—the worst commercial airline disaster in Soviet history until today. It was the worst air accident in Soviet history, leading to the loss of 200 people onboard, 54 of them children. Like so many Soviet tragedies, this crash was covered up by the same government that contributed to the disaster.

Of course, this being Soviet history, the juiciest tidbits are often the stories most likely to be covered up. The YouTube channel Paper Skies is great for all things related to airplane history, and it’s their video I came across today that sparked my curiosity in the subject:

Due to the nature of the crash and the cover up, there’s very little known, besides the fact that the crew was likely exhausted and overheating due to a series of delays. The crew hadn’t had a rest in almost 24 hours and spent much of the time in a terminal suffering under 40 celsius (104 Fahrenheit) heat. When the crew took the controls of the three-engined Tupolev Tu-154B-2, they were exhausted. It’s likely, Paper Skies reports from various Russian sources, that the entire crew simply fell asleep at the controls during the flight’s ascent. When the crew awoke to a slight shutter in the plane, they mistook the problem and slowed down the plane, rather than speeding it up. This caused a stall at around 38,000 feet, sending the plane careening almost vertically down into the desert sands outside of Uchkuduk, Uzbekistan.

It’s a fascinating story. You can watch the whole video here.

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