The Russian city of Ryazan narrowly escaped catastrophe. A Russian military transporter en route to Ukraine caught fire shortly after takeoff. The large Ilyushin IL-76MD model crashed on fire near a residential area of ​​the city, 200 kilometers south-east of Moscow. Four soldiers were killed and five others were taken to a hospital, some with serious injuries.

The military transport aircraft was completely destroyed by the crash. According to the Russian Defense Ministry, it was a training flight without cargo, while there is also speculation about alleged supplies for Russian troops in their war of aggression in Ukraine. The military transporter was supposed to fly to Belgorod, on the border with Ukraine, 70 kilometers north of the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv.

According to local media reports, the Russian Air Force’s Ilyushin model landed in Ryazan to refuel. The city has a large military airport. Less than a minute after takeoff early Friday morning local time, the airfield tower noticed a flash of light on the fourth engine and tried in vain to contact the crew.

According to the Russian Defense Ministry, the pilot initiated an emergency landing. Videos on social media show the plane burning toward the city. Local media reports that a blown engine was said to have been found a kilometer from the actual crash site.

A four-engine aircraft can take off even if one engine fails. One explanation for the fatal crash and mid-air fire could be some kind of engine explosion, with debris penetrating the engine casing, hydraulic lines and cables and hitting fuel tanks in the wings. The escaping kerosene could set the aircraft on fire.

In order to eliminate this danger, engines are regularly and thoroughly serviced and checked for hairline cracks on the turbine blades. The crash is also being discussed in social media in connection with Western sanctions against Russia because components may now be missing.

Basically, however, with all plane crashes, no hasty conclusions should be drawn, but the official investigations should be awaited. In the case of accidents involving military aircraft, however, they are usually not published.

According to the Aviation Safety Network accident database, the model that crashed on Friday morning local time was 34 years old. Nothing is known about the maintenance of the engines. The first model of the large Russian military transport Ilyushin IL-76 took off on its maiden flight in 1971. In the meantime, over 930 examples have been built in various versions.

The aircraft, with a maximum take-off weight of 190 tons, can also transport heavy weapons and is the logistics backbone of the Russian Air Force. The last momentous crash of an Ilyushin 76 was in 2018 shortly after takeoff from an Algerian air base. All 247 people on board died. Ilyushin has now developed a modernized version of the transporter, the first model of which was delivered in 2015.