Russia plane crash: What's the story behind the Tu-154?

Story highlights

  • The crash left a trail of wreckage in the Black Sea
  • Same model involved in 2011 crash that killed Polish President

Moscow (CNN)The Tupolev Tu-154 aircraft that crashed while carrying 92 people on board was one of Russia's best known models.

The plane, which was carrying 84 passengers and eight crew members, disappeared from radar Sunday morning local time after taking off from the Adler airport near Sochi -- the Russian city on the Black Sea, state-run RIA Novosti news agency reported.
    A photo of a Tupolev Tu-154, the same plane that disappeared Sunday morning after taking off near Sochi, Russia.
    The plane, which first took off from Moscow, was flying to the Russian Hmeymim airbase in Latakia, Syria, where the country has a large military presence, for a concert ahead of New Year's Eve, a source told Russia's state news agency Tass.
    The plane underwent routine maintenance in September and was operated by an experienced pilot, the ministry of defense said according to Sputnik.
    So what's the story with the aircraft?

    Russian workhorse

    The Tu-154 is a Russian workhorse -- an aircraft that became synonymous with air travel in the Soviet Union and after its fall in 1991.
    The first model entered service in 1972 before undergoing some modernization in 1986 with new engines added to improve fuel consumption.
    Recognizable by its three engines at the back, it has a resemblance to its Western contemporary, the Boeing 727.
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    The shape of the Tu-154 can be misleading, though, since it's a durable, robust aircraft that has been used in all sorts of runway and landing conditions.
    The aircraft has been phased out by most companies in recent years but remains integral to the Russian military.
    They are often used to transport VIPs such as officials and journalists from Moscow to Syria.
    A picture shows a Tupolev-154 (TU-154) aircraft.
    This particular plane was manufactured in 1983 and had 6,689 hours of flight, according to the ministry of defense, which was quoted by Tass.
    "The last repair was on December 29, 2014, and in September 2016 it underwent scheduled maintenance," the ministry said, according to TASS.
    The ministry identified the pilot as Roman Volkov, describing him as a "class 1 pilot" with more than 3,000 hours of flying, according to Russian media.

    Previous problems

    Russian rescuers inspect the wreckage of a Polish government Tupolev Tu-154 aircraft which crashed in April 2010.
    The Tu-154 has been involved in a number of fatal accidents, although many have been due to poor weather.
    The aircraft's most notorious accident was in April 2010, when a plane carrying Polish President Lech Kaczynski crashed in Smolensk, western Russia, killing all 96 people on board.
    The crash was blamed on pilot error rather than the aircraft.
    An Iranian man stands next to debris of the Caspian Airlines Tupolev-154 at its crash site near the city of Qazvin, northwest of Tehran, on July 16, 2009.
    In July 2009, all 168 people on board a Tu-154 were killed when their flight from Iran to Yerevan, Armenia, came down in Qazvin province in Iran.
    A cross is seen over the debris at the crash site the Russian Tupolev Tu-154 plane in Sukha Balka, 40kms from Ukrainian city of Donetsk/
    In August 2006, 170 people were killed when a Tu-154, belonging to Pulkovo Airlines, went down close to Donetsk, Ukraine, shortly after the pilot reported a fire on board and heavy turbulence.