Saturday, March 17, 2007

Utair and Surgut

It appears that a Utair Tupolev-134 has crash landed on a return flight from Surgut in Siberia, killing five.

The story caught my attention because Utair (flying Tu-134s) are the airline I used when I visited Surgut in 2004 and 2005.

I remember joking at the time about the wisdom of flying an internal Russian airline - but being pleasantly surprised by the experience

  • Domodedovo airport was surprisingly well run: they had the best security-check arrangements of any airport I have ever visited: before the scanners, there was a large open space with plenty of seats and baskets. Passengers could sit down, take off their shoes, empty their pockets and extract their laptops before approaching the machines. This meant that a single slow person didn't cause the queue to freeze-up: people were only processed when they were ready. Utter Genius!
  • Surgut airport was also relatively efficient. On the airside, the de-icing machines were amazing: shortly before the plane was due to depart, a machine would appear out of nowhere and spray a gunky liquid over both wings of the plane. The entire operation took less than thirty seconds.  I could imagine the same scenario at Heathrow (it would involve a lengthy delay and an apology from the pilot about unavailability of equipment, no doubt).
  • The in-flight catering on the flights was outstanding. The airline had rejected the idea of trying to do "fancy" meals or to replicate familiar meals from home. Instead, they had figured out what actually worked at 30,000 feet and served that instead. The pictures don't do it justice, but the rating (8/10) is about right: in-flight catering on Utair flight

However, for all that, I was a little disquieted when I saw that Utair had recently been banned from operating in the EU due to safety concerns.

Either way, it is sad to hear that people have died and have been injured - I hope those injured make a speedy recovery.

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