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Piloting error likely behind Russian Defense Ministry’s plane crash off Sochi coast

MOSCOW, May 31. /TASS/. The Russian defense ministry’s Tu-154 airliner might have crashed near the Black Sea city of Sochi in December 2016 due to the pilot’s error, the ministry told reporters on Wednesday, summing up results of the investigation.

"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 defense ministry said in a statement.

"The commission has not revealed any violations of current requirements regarding passenger seating in the Tu-154 cabin along with the weight and balance settings of the loaded cargo, which was 150 kilograms. Also, violations have not been found in fueling the aircraft at Sochi airport and an impact of external factors has not been revealed," the ministry said.

The investigative commission brought together the Defense Ministry’s experts, officials from the Transport Ministry, Interstate Aviation Committee, Industry and Trade Ministry alongside experts from the Tupolev aircraft manufacturer. They "meticulously assessed the circumstances prior to the crash and examined technical characteristics of the Tu-154 flight since its taking off from Sochi Airport," it said.

A Russian defense ministry Tu-154 bound for Syria crashed in the early morning on December 25, 2016 shortly after taking off from Sochi airport. There were 92 people on board the aircraft, including eight crew members and 84 passengers. Among them were journalists from Russia's Channel One, Zvezda and NTV networks, servicemen and musicians from the world-acclaimed Alexandrov Ensemble, the official choir of the Russian armed forces, who set off to celebrate New Year’s Eve with Russia’s Aerospace Forces at the Hmeymim air base in Syria. The Executive Director of the Spravedlivaya Pomoshch (Russian for Fair Aid or Fair Help) charity fund Elizaveta Glinka, known to the Russian public as Dr. Liza, was also on board the flight.