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Air crasher continues to fly

One of Nordavia's An-24 aircrafts. Photo: Thomas Nilsen

More than a year after Kremlin ordered all An-24 aircrafts to be grounded for safety reasons Nordavia continues to fly the old crow across the skies of the Barents Region.

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It was in August 2011, then-President Dmitri Medvedev said enough is enough and ordered all An-24 planes out of traffic by year-end. Medvedev’s order was given after the latest crash near Tomsk in Siberia. 

Today, more than a year after the planes should have been taken out of passenger traffic, Arkhangelsk-based Nordavia continues to use the aircraft on its routes to Murmansk, Tromsø, Kotlas, Amderma and Usinsk.

An-24 has been flying the route Arkhangelsk-Murmansk-Tromsø since the early 90ties and is considered to be the main bridge-builder transport means in the Norwegian-Russian cooperation in the north. Until some few years ago, the aircraft was also flying from Murmansk to Rovaniemi and Luleå.

Over the first years, the An-24 planes on the routes were operated by Aeroflot, and then under the company name Arkhangelsk Airlines, then re-named Aeroflot Nord before it in 2009 was named Nordavia. Altrough the company has changed its names and ownership many times, it has always been the same aircrafts. They are just re-painted with new logos and colors now and then.

In 2011 Nordavia was bought by Norilsk-Nickel and it will likely be merged with existing Taimyr airlines, also known as Nordstar Airlines.

Oleg Usmanov, director of Nordavia told Vesti Pomorie shortly after the August-2011 order was given by Medvedev that the aircraft is one of the safest worldwide. 

“But it is out-of-date. Yes, it is reliable and safe, but it should be exploited in a proper manner. Moreover, the aircraft is not recognized by a modern passenger, which is the most important criterion for us,” Oleg Usmanov then said.

Today, Nordavia does not mention the An-24 among the company’s aircrafts listed on the official portal. Here, only the 13 Boeing 737 appears.

If searching tickets, however, you will see that the old propeller is still scheduled for flights for the winter season until March 29, twice a week between Arkhangelsk, Murmansk and Tromsø. After BarentsObserver wrote about Nordavia’s continued use of the aircraft after January 1 2012, the company issued a press-release saying its safety is not being compromised by continuing to operate the old An-24 propeller on the route to Tromsø in northern Norway.

The first An-24 took off in 1959. There have been 136 hull-loss accidents with the aircraft with a total of 1,966 fatalities according to Wikipedia.