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'Must be retrieved with an icebreaker'

FOTO: Private

Still stranded at the North Pole:

'Must be retrieved with an icebreaker'

Russian plane damaged during landing April.

The Russian plane carrying tourists to the Barneo ice camp at 89 degrees latitude north suffered extensive damage during a hard landing on the ice April 4.

Two months later it remains firmly stuck on the frozen Arctic Ocean.

"We will collect and transport the plane back to Russia with an icebreaker, but it will not be until sometime in August," said Margarita Tertitskaja of the Russian company Polar Expedition, which chartered the plane from the Moscow-based airline Shar Ink.

Major damage

Photos obtained by Svalbardposten show major damage to the plane's chassis including, among other things, a blow to the hull that caused cracking.

The 28-meter-long Antonov An-74 200, weighing 19,000 kilograms, was standing with its nose about one meter in the air and the tail section lying on the ground after the landing.

Parts and repair personnel were sent to the site to repair the damage, and the intention was for test pilots to fly the plane back to Russia. That didn't happen.

"It was originally to be flown down, but they didn't want to risk any more happening," Tertitskaja said. "The plane looks OK on the outside, but they did not want to take the chance that there could be other undiscovered damage."

The Arctic summer, with its ice-melting temperatures, is rapidly approaching.

But Tertitskaja said the plane is currently on safe ground.

"The ice is good, although the weather has changed and it is becoming warmer," she said.

'Poor visibility'

Tertitskaja said she cannot answer specific questions about how the plane will be moved to the icebreaker and transported out of the Arctic Ocean. Shar Ink, which operated the flight, has not responded to inquiries from Svalbardposten.

"I don't work for them and I do not know how the move will happen," Tertitskaja said.
The entire sequence of events, cause of the accident and extent of damage is not publicly known.

A passenger who asked to remain anonymous told Svalbardposten visibility was poor at the time of landing.

"The aircraft hit the ice hard. It came as a shock to us all," said the passenger, adding the crew did not offer any information about what happened.

"No, I was just very happy to get off the plane and start the expedition," the passenger said.

Svalbardposten has not successfully determined the plane's exact location.

Translated by Mark Sabbatini


Se bildet større

FOTO: Private


Built by the state Ukrainian aircraft manufacturer Antonov.

NATO nickname: "Coal"

Originally intended as an Arctic upgrade of the An-82, developed for delivering people and equipment in difficult weather and landing conditions.

First flight took place in 1983.

Length: 28.07 m

Wingspan: 31.89 m

Maximum speed: 700 km/h

Range: 4,300 km

Source: aerospaceweb.org

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