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I don't have the time to research properly and I never had Elco's breadth of knowledge, but I shared his interest, I think this is a pretty reasonable summary:

BBC News - History of the Tupolev-154 plane

History of the Tupolev-154 plane

The Polish presidential plane - a Tupolev-154

The Tupolev-154 was for more than a quarter of a century the backbone of Russia's and the Soviet Union's air transport system.

It carried about half the number of all passengers flown by Russia's national carrier Aeroflot and its successors in that time, with that number peaking at 137 million per year in 1990.

About 1,000 were built, and some remain in service in Russia and countries that were once part of the Soviet bloc.

The aircraft entered service in 1972 and was "modernised" in 1986, with new engines and equipment to improve its fuel consumption and flight operations.

But as an indication of its ageing design, the Chinese government decided in 2001 to withdraw the Tu-154 from its airlines.

Aeroflot took the decision to phase them out more recently, saying their high fuel consumption made them uneconomic.

Difficult conditions

An expert on Russian aviation, Paul Duffy, assessed the safety record of the Tu-154 in 2004, for the BBC News website.

Of 28 lost in accidents up to that date - a figure about normal for the quantity, years of service and technology of the type, in his view - few had crashed because of technical failure, he said.

"The Tu-154 operates in regions with not very good air traffic control and navigation equipment, and in very difficult weather conditions," he said at the time.

It's a pretty robust aeroplane, but the age is a concern - maintenance and checking for defects is critical as a plane gets older. One would think that a presidential plane would receive the best care... but things happen.

However, it does sound related to conditions and if they had ignored advice to land elsewhere... this highlights why the advice was given.

by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Sat Apr 10th, 2010 at 07:36:42 AM EST
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