The Investigative Committee of Russia (RIC) has formally charged commanding pilot Denis Evdokimov with wrongdoing for his role in the May 5 crash of an Aeroflot Sukhoi SSJ100 at Moscow Sheremetyevo Airport. The authorities have accused the captain of infringement of flight procedures and manuals, resulting in excessive vertical speeds during final approach and too high of an angle of attack at touchdown and the initial portion of the ground run, causing the airplane to bounce as it decelerated along Sheremetyevo’s main runway. The investigating team, led by Ivan Sibul, concluded the pilot’s lack of professionalism led to the airplane catching fire, resulting in property loss of 1.5 billion rubles ($23 million, not including the value of the passenger baggage). Most of the 41 people on board who died fell victim to fire and fumes.
Earlier this month the RIC called Evdokimov to its offices to read him the charges, which name him as the only person guilty of causing suffering to the other 77 people onboard, including copilot Maxim Kuznetsov. Evdokimov, who has logged 6,800 flight hours including 1,400 hours in the Superjet, refuses to acknowledge guilt. During lightning strikes, the Superjet developed various technical malfunctions, including those involving avionics and fly-by-wire flight controls, causing a switch to direct control mode. The pilot further maintains the airplane became unstable in flight and difficult to control, responding incorrectly to sidestick movements. As for the fire inside the fuselage, he has taken the position that the flames erupted after the cabin crew opened the airplane's doors for evacuation.
Reacting to the new developments, Moscow media note the rather short period of time in which the RIC put together the factual basis for accusations and moved the case to judgment; similar cases took years, not months to reach such a stage. Reports also note that the RIC invited the pilot to read the charges against him even ahead of official publication of a final crash report by the Interstate Aviation Committee. That document has yet to come out.
Lawyer Pavel Gerasimov, who represents families of deceased passengers, told journalists they will not demand financial compensation from the pilot, but rather from Aeroflot if the court finds the airline guilty.