St. Petersburg Water Landing

Water Landing in Russia 1

Most of us have seen those emergency instructions in case of water landing. Like, take the vest from under the seats, go to the emergency exit, first leave the plane then pull the ring and inflate the fest and etc., but not everyone knows that according to the official statistics material the survival rate in the plane which goes ditching is dreadfully low. In fact, they say, it is so low, that the crew doesn’t get any training for this case.

Still, sometimes, it works. In 1963, such water landing happened in Russia. It was even more remarkable by the fact that the big passenger jet plane has landed right in the center of St. Petersburg city with hundreds witnessed this event.

The story behind this landing was as follows. The TU-124 plane was a new model in Russian passenger air fleet back in 60s. It has undergone checks and tests, and was already approved for the use in the passenger aviation. This particular flight was just a regular flight across the Soviet Union, with a destination point of Tallinn, now the capital of Estonia. When the plane approached Tallinn and was going to land the problem arose: one of the landing gears couldn’t be released.

The crew tried all their best to release this stuck thing, but nothing happened. They went as far as chopped through the body of the plane with an axe to try to release the gear by hand, but even this didn’t help.

Then they got the order to land on the plane’s body, and to do that they headed to Leningrad, now St. Petersburg. There was an unpaved landing stripe near that city, they needed one to reduce the damage and the tension during such risky landing.

But before the landing could occur, they needed to burn out all the fuel left on board in order to minimize the fuel blast possibility. So they flew above the city in circles, waiting for it to be fully used. And then another defect of the newly approved plane arouse – the fuel meters were wrong, they showed that there is still some fuel left but it hasn’t – the engines shut down one by one and now they had no chance even to approach to that unpaved stripe.

So the only thing they left to do in order not to crash a plane full of passengers on the densely populated city center was a water landing. The crew captain did all his best to maneuver heavy jet with not working engines and finally he did it – landed right on the Neva city, the river of St. Petersburg.

It was a big luck – none got serious injuries after such a rough act, but then, the plane started to sink – remember that hole in the floor which they chopped trying to reach the stuck gear – the water was coming though at a pretty descent rate. And yet again they were lucky – there was a cargo boat going by the river which helped the sinking plane and towed it to the shore where already emergency services were.

It’s interesting no facts of this crash were ever published before the Soviet Union ceased to exist. Such a secrecy had an explanation – these jets were a huge export for Russia and the party did not want anyone to know about the accidents with them. Most of the film rolls were immediately confiscated
from the witnessing public. Some of those who’ve seen these told later that they thought it was just some new movie shooting.

Water Landing in Russia 2

Water Landing in Russia 3

Water Landing in Russia 4

Water Landing in Russia 5

Sure, that occasion in 1963 was not the only one. There were much more, but not such picturesque as that one. For example those ones below are the same model of the jet, with again, stuck gear had to land to where it seemed to be more softer. It’s interesting that the one from the second picture is still in use.

Water Landing in Russia 6

Water Landing in Russia 7

39 thoughts on “St. Petersburg Water Landing”

  1. The plane on the last picture is still active, his new tail number is 9530642, see site .

    And here are some other pictures from the same airplane .

    more info:

    CCCP-87541 Emergency landing near UKKK after cutoff all of three engines. Cpt. Shtilis, F/E Sinkevichius

    • Yes, exactly. It was a Yak-40.
      From 1978 to 1984 I was a student of the Kiev Aviation University (KIIGA). About 1982 or 83 we had lessons “Flight Safety”. This occurence was one of the exaples for studying aviation accidents. If I remember right, when they were in approach phase to Zhuliyani a/p, the captain gave a command “idle” but the flight mechanic overpulled the power levers over the idle stop, down to the rear stop, which is the engine shut down position. Through the low altitude they had not enough time to restart the engines and they performed an emergency landing in the bog.

      • I’ve also heard that story on Flight Safety course. There was serias of accidents with Yak-40 and each of them was quite the same: instead of applying idle power flight mechanic turned off engines. In each of that cases mechanics were accused and fired from Aeroflot. Only the last catastrophe (plane laded on some field, choped a tree which fell on worker who was nearby) droped some light on the real cause of that kind of accidents. It turned out that the problem was in the design of throttle stick of Yak-40. Normally you can’t shut the engine down by pulling the stick down because it stops at some level. There is a button on the stick which is to be pushed to let the stick move to it’s lowest position and finally cut the fuel off. Problem with the plane was that occasionally the stick made it through without the button pressed.

  2. I remember this story from Estonian newspaper some 5 years ago and the flight was from Tallinn to Leningrad I think. Leningrad (St. Petersburg) was flights destination, but when burning down fuel they made mistake on calculations and plane was not in right spot for coming down to runway.

    Such photos were forbiden in Soviet Union, Police (Militsiya – like they are named in Russia, this comes from same as Military and so by language origin Militsiya should be holding control only in war conditions) tried to catch all cameras and no news of such events were allowed to newspapers sometimes. So, such photos are real rarity. Available only when someone managed to take a shot when no police was present and cover camera quickly.

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  4. We will now be confiskating all of this new fotografik evidence!!! What you are witnessing is a TV programme about a weblog about a movie of a waterlanding aircraft.

  5. You will not be believing of this but I was on this very flight! Water touchdown so smooth that I still had most of the wodka in my glass but I did dropped some of my peanuts. The swim to shore was very refreshing!

  6. Must say the captain must have been a good a pilot, he reacted quickly to the fact the fuel meters were wrong and their original plan was impossible to accomplish, thus made that crazy water-landing, well, it was a story with a happy ending isn’t it?

  7. Dear English Russia,

    Do you have any photos of Ukrainians freezing their arses off?

    My good friend Putin is spanking them hard by turning off their gas supply. It will teach them a lesson not to talk about “independence” and “rights.”

    I will be happy to help, at the rate of one barrel of oil per one Ukranian girl.

    Fortunately, the Europeans will not help, becaue they have already said they are opposed to going to war “for oil,” when the Americans and their assorted allies invaded Iraq.

    We are fortunate that the western Europeans are sophisticated enough to understand when they are beaten. Otherwise, we may have another nasty war to beat them into submission,.

    Anyway, please post the photos of the Ukrainians.

  8. I’ve never seen these pictures in china before~
    it’s shocked to me~
    This kind of handling the case by covering it is the most common trick used by our goverment now~haha~
    Also,the pilot was an admired hero but cannot be awarded~~

  9. Comment to the last picture

    Да ну её в болото/ […] / А мне летать, а мне летать/ А мне летать охота

  10. The first photo shows Tu-124V (“V” identifies the version for 56 passengers), which belonged to Czechoslovak Airlines from 1965.
    It was resold to USSR in 1972 and then resold to Iraqi Airways.

  11. Forced water landings (ditchings) are 80% survivable.
    Forced hard surface landings 15% survivable.
    And yes, we do train for ditchings.

  12. LOL! Don’t write things like this!
    A plane has just landed in the Hudson river in NYC! It seems nobody injured.

    History repeat itself!
    Or did you guys do anything for this? =))

  13. WTF! A jet has just made a waterlanding in Hudson River in US! No casualties…

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    • The American pilot read about a Soviet pilot’s successful water landing, and became jealous, so he did it in the Hudson River.

      Once again the Americans are decades behind great Soviet accoplishment.

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  16. And again, caption “For example those ones below are the same model of the jet” refers to previously mentioned Tu-124 story, but on the color photo “below” is Tu-134. And wording used is in plural, meaning caption refers to Yak-40 photo as well. They are not same! Be more careful with facts, “English Russia”!


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