St. Petersburg Buries 8 Crash Victims

Funerals were held Monday in St. Petersburg for eight of those killed on the Pulkovo Airlines flight that crashed in eastern Ukraine, killing all 170 on board.

Family members asked city officials not to attend the funerals, which were held at undisclosed locations. St. Petersburg is paying 100,000 rubles to each of the victims' families.

Eighty of the victims who were on board the Tu-154 when it crashed last Tuesday about 45 kilometers north of the industrial city of Donetsk have been identified.

Oleg Panteleyev, an industry analyst, meanwhile, speculated that airlines could expect a new wave of safety checks similar to the inspections that took place after an S7 plane crashed in Irkutsk in July.

The Irkutsk crash, which left 127 people dead, prompted government officials to demand that all foreign-made aircraft be inspected; the S7 plane was an Airbus.

A Transportation Ministry spokesman, who asked not to be named, said it was common for an airline's planes to be checked in the immediate wake of an accident. Typically, planes are only checked every three months. The ministry spokesman declined to say whether airlines beside Pulkovo could expect to have their planes checked soon.

Also Monday, Pulkovo Airlines spokesman Vasily Nalyotenko rejected suggestions in the national press that Igor Korogodin, the commanding pilot of the ill-fated flight, flew toward a thunderstorm to save fuel.

National newspapers have reported that airlines punish pilots for wasting fuel, suggesting that Korogodin took a more dangerous route to avoid facing punishment from his employer. The storm is widely believed to have played a key role in bringing down the plane.

Nalyotenko acknowledged that flight crews are rewarded for using a computer program to determine how best to use their fuel. Before the advent of the program, crews calculated how much fuel they needed manually, which was not economical, he said.

But, he added, "we have never punished anyone for overspending fuel." Nalyotenko noted that the airline also rewarded pilots for flying safely.

Panteleyev, the editor of the aviation web site Aviaport.ru, said pilots might very well feel pressured to conserve fuel but that airlines would not encourage flagrant safety violations.

The plane's crew is to be buried in St. Petersburg on Wednesday, Aug. 30, Interfax reported.