June 1 (UPI) — Pilot error likely caused the December 2016 crash of a Russian military plane in which 92 people died, the Russian Defense Ministry announced.
The Tupelov Tu-154 plane crashed into the Black Sea near the city of Sochi.
“The investigation has established that the crash could have been caused by spatial disorientation — situational unawareness — of the pilot, which resulted in his erroneous actions in piloting the aircraft,” the ministry said Wednesday in a statement.
The BBC, citing the Russian-language newspaper Kommersant, reported that evidence points to “somatogravic illusion” on the part of the pilot, Maj. Roman Volkov. The condition can affect a pilot’s sense of balance, and experts said Volkov issued incoherent instructions as he steered the plane into a steep dive.
The plane left Sochi on Dec. 25, traveling to Syria, with 84 passengers and eight crew members; all died in the crash. Aboard was the Alexandrov Ensemble, the Russian armed forces choir, on its way to the Russian air base in Hmeymim, Syria, for a New Year’s Day concert. Musicians, journalists, and noted human rights advocate and Fair Aid charity director Yelizaveta Glinka, known as “Dr. Liza” were also on board.