Leningrad, Soviet Union: An Aeroflot Tupolev Tu-124, registration SSSR-45021, lands in the Neva River outside of Leningrad after a harrowing descent. All passengers and crew survive, while the citizens of Leningrad were given a spectacle of a landing by the stricken plane.
After departing from Tallinn, Estonia, the Tupolev pilots reported that the nose landing gear carriage did not retract after takeoff and failed to respond in any way from the flight deck. The flight was immediately diverted to Leningrad where pilots began to take turns attempting to lock the nose landing gear into place with a stick from an access hatch in the a coat closet. The crew struggled with getting the hatch to lock into place, fearing to attempt to land without a clean lock on the gear, they continued to circle on the outskirts of the city, rotating pilots after one got tired. In the midst of the attempts, the plane suffered a double-engine failure and the pilots managed to land the plane in the river. Citizens of Leningrad reported that the plane had lined up with the river, missing the Bolsheokhtinsky Bridge by only 100 feet and the Alexander Nevsky Bridge, under construction at the time, before splashing down in the 1,000 foot wide river.
Investigators would later learn that the crew, becoming so preoccupied with the landing gear, completely missed that they were out of fuel and that the double-engine failure was due to fuel starvation. The plane was nearly completely intact as it landed in the river right beside a river barge, who tossed a line to the cabin crew through an ejected windscreen who hooked it to the cabin. The tug pulled the plane to shore where the passengers and crew were able to exit the plane via a roof hatch in the fuselage.
A scene from survivors on the beach after the crash.
Beryozovsky District, Krasnoyarsk Krai, Russia: A Tupolev Tu-104 from the Aeroflot Airline, registration SSSR-42370, disappears from radar after some troubling and confusing reports from the cabin crew. Traffic controllers reported a chaotic cabin and a strange background noise before the end of transmission from the Russian jetliner. The Tupolev was on a flight from Khabarovsk to Moscow with two intermediate stops, one in Irkutsk.
Soon, after the takeoff from Irkutsk, the pilots made a preliminary call to Krasnoyarsk air traffic control (ATC) and got clearance to enter the airspace. A few minutes later, controllers reported an incoherent emergency call from the Tupolev cabin crew. Controllers also reported a strange background noise that they could not identify. Moments later, all of their hails to the Tupolev went unanswered and emergency crews were dispatched to the scene.
Investigators soon discovered that the plane impacted the ground in an inverted (cabin side down) position and at a relatively severe angle of around 40 degrees. Investigators concluded that the plane came down from disorientation of the pilots in the cloud cover, but further investigation revealed a strange substance on the left side of the fuselage, a propellant that should not have been there. Later findings show that the propellant was used in an anti-aircraft missile that the Krasnoyarsk defense force used regularly. Officials of the krai later admitted to an error in a military training exercise that let the missile lock on to the Tupolev, which impacted the airliner. Officials later correlated the strange sound heard on the voice transmissions as that of the missile system closing on the plane. With 76 passengers and 8 crew, the crash marked the worst aviation disaster in Russia at that time.