Russian passenger plane in belly landing

A Russian-operated passenger plane crash-landed at a provincial airport late on Wednesday after its landing gear failed, national news agencies reported, raising fresh concerns about the country's chequered air safety record.

None of the 108 passengers or six crew onboard the KD-Avia Boeing 737-300 flying from Barcelona was injured when the plane was forced to land on its fuselage at Kaliningrad airport, the state-run Itar-Tass news agency reported.

Russia has one of the world's worst air safety records, with ageing Soviet-era planes, dated airport facilities, poor plane maintenance and lax standards contributing to a grim crash toll.

Last month, all 88 passengers and crew aboard an Aeroflot Boeing plane died when the plane crashed in a ball of fire near the Ural mountains. In August 2006, 170 people were killed when a TU-154 plane crashed in Ukraine on a flight to St Petersburg.

"The fuselage was not destroyed, and the passengers were evacuated through regular ramps. None of them was hurt," KD-Avia Executive Director Leonid Itskov told Interfax news agency.

The fuselage and engines were damaged after the plane came down at 11.10 p.m. local time in the Russian enclave situated between Lithuania and Poland, and the airport was forced to close, reported Interfax.

The Transport Ministry was quoted as saying the crew first reported problems controlling the plane's flaps, which were rectified, but the landing gear then failed to operate, forcing the crew to make the emergency landing.

KD-Avia is a 100 percent privately owned airline based in Kaliningrad which began operations in 2005, according to the company's website.


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