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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

For Aeroflot, Lax Attitude Is to Blame

The essential details, both tragic and shocking, of the March 23 crash of an Aeroflot Airbus bound for Hong Kong have now been confirmed. The son and daughter of the pilot were being given a flying lesson when the aircraft dropped into an irretrievable dive, according to a Transport Ministry statement.


How could this have happened? How could an experienced pilot, entrusted with one of the newest and most valuable aircraft in the fleet of Russian International Airlines, Aeroflot's international branch, have used a passenger jet to teach his children to fly?


What, passengers must now ask themselves as they buy an Aeroflot ticket, does this say about the level of discipline within the airline? On my flight, they will ask, will the pilot's family or friends be flying the aircraft?


The story is in its essence all too human -- that of a father indulging his children in what must have been a holiday atmosphere as eight pilots and their families took a free trip to Hong Kong. But pilots and airlines, like doctors and hospitals, are not allowed to be subject to human frailties. Like doctors, we demand from them a special responsibility.


The manufacturers of the A-310 Airbus will doubtless be relieved to hear that nothing was wrong with their aircraft, a fact established at the beginning of the Transport Minister's brief statement Tuesday. But the consequences for Aeroflot could, and perhaps should, be highly damaging.


Here in Moscow and abroad there is a widespread suspicion, fueled both by prejudice and the hopelessly lax regulation of internal Aeroflot flights, that Russian aircraft are unsafe to fly. Every regular Aeroflot passenger has a story of the flight on which the corridor was filled, like a bus, with standing passengers, or where the seatbelts were broken or any number of other basic safety rules were violated.


Nothing could do more to confirm this suspicion than the latest accident, as a result of which 75 people are now dead. That crash is unusual precisely because anybody can understand how it happened. There were no terrorist bombs, no sheer winds or defective engine blades to complicate the picture.


The Transport Ministry's decision to issue a quick and candid statement acknowledging the causes of the accident may indicate that it plans to learn from the tragedy. The Aeroflot management must understand that only they, ultimately, can take responsibility for this accident.


Aeroflot's management must immediately discipline themselves and their pilots according to international standards. Otherwise there will be further tragedies in the future and Aeroflot's reputation as unsafe to fly will be set in concrete.