An An-148 regional twin-jet passenger aircraft during its first flight from the Antonov aircraft factory in Kiev, Ukraine. (Myshko Markiv/AP)

Plane with 71 aboard crashes near Moscow; no survivors seen
Jim Heintz (Associated Press) - February 12, 2018 - 2:11am

MOSCOW — A Russian passenger plane believed to be carrying 71 people crashed yesterday afternoon near Moscow, shortly after takeoff from one of the city's airports. No survivors were immediately reported.

The An-148 regional jet disappeared from radar screens a few minutes after departing from Domodedovo Airport en route to the city of Orsk, some 1,500 kilometers (1,000 miles) southeast of Moscow. The plane reportedly belonged to Saratov Airlines, a Russian commercial carrier.

Plane fragments were found in the Ramenskoye area about 40 kilometers (25 miles) from the airport. Footage on state television showed them strewn across a snowy field with no buildings nearby. It was unclear if there were any casualties among people on the ground at the crash site.

Russia's Investigative Committee said all possible crash causes were being looked into.

Russia's state news agency Tass says the passenger plane that crashed had been flying since 2010, with a two-year break because of a shortage of parts.

The plane was ordered by Rossiya Airlines, a subsidiary of Aeroflot, but was put into storage during 2015-2017 because of a lack of parts. Tass reports it re-entered service for Saratov Airlines in February 2017. The jet was developed by Ukraine's Antonov company in the early 2000s, and was manufactured in both Ukraine and Russia.

Shabby equipment and poor supervision had plagued Russian civil aviation for years after the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, but its safety record has improved markedly in recent years.

The last large-scale crash in Russia occurred on Dec. 25, 2016, when a Tu-154 operated by the Russian Defense Ministry on its way to Syria crashed into the Black Sea minutes after takeoff from the southern Russian city of Sochi. All 92 people on board were killed.

In March 2016, a Boeing 737-800 flown by FlyDubai crashed while landing at Rostov-on-Don, killing all 62 people aboard.

An onboard bomb destroyed a Russian Metrojet airliner soon after taking off from Egypt's Sharm al-Sheikh resort, killing 244 people in October 2015.

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