The plane crash that killed nearly the entire Lokomotiv Yaroslavl hockey team was a tragedy. Now, it is made all the more heartbreaking with the news that it might have been preventable.
A report published by the Russian Interstate Aviation Committee says that pilot error, potentially coupled with one pilot's prescription drug use, is to blame for the fatal crash that left 44 dead.
One or both of the pilots applied the plane's brakes during liftoff, according to the report, resulting in a failed takeoff attempt that was at too steep an angle and too slow a speed. Potentially compounding the error was the discovery of phenobarbital, a nerve medication, in the bloodstream of the flight's second pilot.
The drug, prescribed for treating nerve problems, slows down reaction time and its use should have precluded the pilot from being allowed to fly. Due to the drug or his medical condition, the pilot may have been unaware that he was pressing the brakes.
"The braking could have been carried out by the commander who was carrying out active piloting, or the second pilot," said Alexei Morozov, the chairman of the committee.
The report states that the plane still had plenty of room on the runway to abort the effort but continued on despite problems. It also notes that the pilots may have mistakenly been applying brakes because they were more used to flying other planes where they were used to steering with foot pedals.