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Defense Ministry: Crashed Tu-154 plane flown by experienced pilot

The Tu-154 plane was manufactured in 1983 and had 6,689 hours of flight

MOSCOW, December 25. /TASS/. The Tu-154 plane that crashed off the Black Sea coast near Sochi on Sunday was manufactured more than 30 years ago and was last time repaired in December 2014, and was flown by an experienced pilot, Russia’s Defense Ministry said.

"The Tu-154 plane of the military and transport aviation of Russia’s Defense Ministry was flown by experienced pilot Roman Volkov," the ministry said in a statement. Volkov was class 1 pilot who had more than 3,000 hours of flight.

The Tu-154 plane was manufactured in 1983 and had 6,689 hours of flight. "The last repair was on December 29, 2014, and in September 2016 it underwent scheduled maintenance," the ministry said.

The Defense Ministry’s Tu-154 plane disappeared from radars at 05.40 a.m. Moscow time (02.40 a.m. GMT) shortly after taking off from Russia’s Black Sea resort of Sochi.

There were more than 90 people onboard the plane, according to the Defense Ministry’s list published on the website. Among them was Executive Director of the Spravedlivaya Pomoshch (Fair Aid) charity fund Elizaveta Glinka, known as Dr. Liza, servicemen and reporters, including from the Channel One, Zvezda and NTV.

The plane also carried more than 60 members of the famous Alexandrov ensemble, an official army choir of the Russian armed forces, who flew to congratulate the air group of Russia’s Aerospace Forces at the Hmeymim air base in Syria with the New Year. The choir’s head Valery Khalilov was also on the list of the passengers.

The Defense Ministry said the debris of the Tu-154 plane was found 1.5 km from the coast near Sochi at the depth of 50-70 meters.