On the evening of November 30, an Ilyushin Il-76T plane crashed when attempting to land at the Maya-Maya Airport in Brazzaville, the capital of the Republic of the Congo.
The plane was on a cargo flight from Pointe Noire to the capital when it crashed short of the runway in bad weather.
All seven crew members, five of them from Armenia, one police officer on board the aircraft, and 26 people on the ground were killed, and 14 people on the ground were injured.
Aljazeera initially reported that the plane belonged to the Trans Air Congo company and that it was carrying out cargo runs for another local airway Aéro-Service. Trans Air quickly denied that the plane was theirs. It later turned out that the plane belonged to the Armenian company Rich Airways.
Ridge Airways, along with eleven other airways, is registered in Armenia with the Civil Aviation Agency. In the RA State Registry, one Sergey Kocharov is listed as the owner.
In a letter to Hetq, airplane Captain Valeri Poghosyan writes that the plane actually belongs to another company with the same name that is registered offshore. Poghosyan says that those who died in the Brazzaville crash were his friends.
In general, many airways registered in Armenia operate overseas, mostly in Africa and the United Arab Emirates. Three years ago, Ishkhan Zakaryan, President of the RA Control; Chamber, noted that airlines register in Armenia because it is free of charge. The taxes they pay the Armenian government are minimal at best when compared to Armavia or ArmAero.
In his letter, Poghosyan also writes that Ridge Airways belongs to Deputy Head of the RA General Staff, Lieutenant-General Stepan Galstyan, but that the company is registered in his wife’s name. Poghosyan says four other planes belonging to Galstyan also operate in Africa. He estimates that $9 million was spent to acquire the planes.
Poghosyan also points out that the young general had only four years of peace time service before rising to his present rank and that he never attended any military academy.
According to the RA Ministry of Defense website, Stepan Galstyan served in the Soviet military from 1983-1992 and that he graduated from the Armavir Military Pilots Aviation Academy in 1988.
Naturally, the ministry has refuted the above information regarding Galstyan and says it’s an attempt to smear the good name of the military.
But what’s more important is the plane itself, rather than who owns the company. Pilot Poghosyan claims that the plane had been operating in the Congo for 16 months and illegally for the past four.
Poghosyan goes on to claim that the plane’s documents had been forged and the Congolese aviation authorities were in a panic when this was discovered.
The pilot says that, in fact, the documents of all Ridge Airways planes are forged and that the plane that went done and its crew were not insured.
Poghosyan, who is now working in Africa, says the plane couldn’t fly without crew insurance. The fact that the plane never underwent a technical inspection deprived it of being insured as well.
Poghosyan writes: “So who is responsible regarding the compensation of the families and third parties. And why didn’t the RA Civil Aviation Administration react in a timely fashion? This agency has been turned into a commercial body rather than an administrative one. In all probability, they will claim that the plane was never registered in Armenia in the first place.”
On the website of the «Ilyushin Aviation Complex», the manufacturer of the IL model planes, are listed the operating life spans of the Il-76 planes. The plane that crashed in the Congo isn’t listed there. However, we see that nine of the eleven Il-76 planes registered in Armenia have surpassed their estimated lifespan.
The question naturally arises, how many of the nine “expired” planes are still taking to the skies, endangering the lives of crew and passengers alike.
Top photo by AP