Streetwise Professor

May 11, 2012

The Dead Can’t Defend Themselves, and Hey, There’s Big Money at Stake

Filed under: Politics,Russia — The Professor @ 8:51 am

Following a time-tested MO, Russians are insinuating that pilot error (or error by Indonesian air traffic controllers) caused the crash of the Sukhoi superjet.  After all, the pilot is dead, and can’t defend himself-but there is big money to be lost if it was a mechanical or design problem.

The man I usually refer to as Rogozin the Ridiculous was first out of the gate with this story.  Here he earns a new sobriquet: Dmitry the Disgusting:

A deputy Russian prime minister, Dmitry Rogozin, said the aircraft was working “impeccably” before the crash and suggested that “the human factor” — a reference to pilot error or a mistake by ground controllers — was likely to blame. Russian authorities often blame crashes on pilot error, even before the results of an investigation.

Interesting thing.  Planes that crash often work quite well-before they don’t.  Rogozin’s amazing forensic skills. demonstrated earlier in the year in his analysis of the Yekaterinburg sub fire, were on full display:

Rogozin said he had flown in a plane of this type in February in Novosibirsk and considered it a good, reliable, modern craft. “During the flight from Novosibirsk to Moscow I was in the cockpit and the pilots explained to me the advantages of the jet. The pilots had a high opinion of this plane. The aircraft has a great future, it is promising and competitive,” Rogozin said.

Wow. If that isn’t dispositive, what is? No need for any investigation.  Move along.  Nothing to see here.  Rogozin flew on the plane.

Some of those interviewed (especially in the predictably egregious RT piece) called attention to the pilot’s request to fly at a lower altitude in a mountainous region.  Uhm, even a tyro would be unlikely to do this unless there was some compelling reason to do so.  And the man at the controls was no tyro:

Sukhoi’s chief civil test pilot, Alexander Yablontsev, and his co-pilot, Alexander Kochetkov, flew the plane, Superjet International, the Italian-led venture responsible for marketing the plane to the West, said in a statement on its website.

Yablontsev had accumulated 10,000 flight hours and commanded the Superjet on its maiden flight in 2008.

In other words, extremely experienced both overall and on this particular aircraft.  A man whom a Russian state corporation (Sukhoi is now part of the Putin-created monstrosity, I mean “national champion”, United Aircraft Corporation) deemed to be the most qualified to fly the plane on which it was staking its future as a commercial aircraft manufacturer.  But apparently someone who didn’t know enough to fly over mountains.

The Russians will no doubt attempt to cement this narrative, and influence the investigation.  And given the parties-and stakes-involved, “influence” can go well beyond a bullying phone call.

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  1. One can only hope that potential customers, not knowing what to believe, will believe the worst and not buy these planes. If people think that the Russians are hiding something, one would think they’d believe that these planes are lemons. One would think.

    Comment by Highgamma — May 11, 2012 @ 10:13 am

  2. SWP, you just do these Rogozin stories solely for populism, right? If so, it works in my case. 🙂

    Comment by Howard Roark — May 11, 2012 @ 2:29 pm

  3. @Howard. LOL. Not so much for populism, but because Rogozin alternately amuses me and p*sses me off. How could such a Bozo make it to such an exalted station? (Well, we have Biden, so I guess I should ‘t make too much of it.) Glad you enjoy them, regardless of the motivation!

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — May 11, 2012 @ 5:21 pm

  4. One ought to connect the dots between this story, the recent revelations about brewing terrorist activity around the Sochi games, and the total apathy of Russian citizens to issue a warning about foreign athletes attending the Sochi games.

    If they do go to the games, at least they should not fly anywhere inside Russia. But then, trains and buses are much easier targets for the terrorists. So it’s pretty much rock and a hard place. Best solution: Just don’t go.

    Comment by La Russophobe — May 13, 2012 @ 12:36 am

  5. It’s pretty clear that there was pilot error here. The error was that the pilot got behind the wheel of a plane built and designed by Russians, and which given the nation’s horrific air-traffic safety records was almost bound to crash. If one is going to perform labor in Russia, the airline industry (and, certainly, roads) is good place not to do it. Also avoid buildings that routinely burst into flames. A nice farm behind a mule is likely the place to be.

    Comment by La Russophobe — May 16, 2012 @ 4:50 pm

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