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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Irkutsk Crash Blamed on Engine Flaw

The fatal crash of a cargo plane in the Siberian city of Irkutsk last December was caused by a flawed engine design that had been detected in other planes before the crash, Russia's air force chief said Tuesday.

The newly appointed head of the Russian air force Anatoly Kornukov said at a news briefing that a government commission investigating the crash, which killed at least 69 people, has concluded that three of the four engines on the giant Antonov 124 plane shut down shortly after the plane took off.

Kornukov said the shutdown of two of the engines was caused by the failure of high-pressure compressors and a design fault in the engines. Investigators have been unable to establish what caused the third engine to shut down, he said.

Kornukov added, "Such instances had happened before, for instance when three engines on a plane of such a type stopped immediately after landing or when one or two engines failed, but the previous failures did not lead to catastrophe."

The air force chief, who was appointed last month to replace Pyotr Deinekin, offered no explanation as to why the design faults in the An-124's engines had apparently been ignored. He said Monday the commission's findings would be sent to Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin for approval.

The An-124, carrying a cargo of two Sukhoi fighters bound for Vietnam, crashed in a residential suburb of Irkutsk in the early hours of Dec. 6. All 15 crew members and several dozen local residents, including children from an orphanage that was hit by the plane, were killed.

The crash sent shockwaves through Russian political and military circles. Chernomyrdin flew to the scene, and soon afterward President Boris Yeltsin ordered improvements in flight safety. The Russian air force ordered all An-124s grounded until the results of the investigation were released.

The An-124, also known as the Ruslan, is one of the world's largest aircraft. About 70 of the aircraft are in service in the Russian air force and several more are operated by private companies.

Kornukov said the air force's An-124s will remain grounded until they have been checked and, in some cases, the engines have been replaced with later models.

Once checks have been made, a decision will be made on whether to permit limited use of the aircraft, Kornukov said.