The plane crash that occurred on February 7, 1981 in Pushkin, unlike other incidents of a similar plan, was included in history far from due to the number of dead, although there were a lot of them - all 44 passengers and 6 crew members. The significance was somewhat different: not ordinary citizens were on board the aircraft, but almost the entire high command of the Pacific fleet THE USSR. Thirteen admirals, three generals, eleven captains of the first rank, as well as seventeen more people - lower military ranks and civilians. All of them became victims of the tragedy, the cause of which, given the rank of the passengers, could be sabotage. But in reality, everything turned out differently.
High-ranking company on the plane
The catastrophe itself at the Pushkin military airfield in the Leningrad Region is quite well known, although the details of it were kept secret for a long time. But for the uninitiated reader, you need to make a small digression to make it clear why the Pacific in such a composition ended up in Leningrad, thousands of kilometers from their native land.
In short, there is such a thing as command and staff exercises. From the ordinary teachings we are accustomed to seeing in the news, they differ in that no large-scale maneuvers of troops on land, sea and in the air are carried out. This is a kind of exam for the command, during which, using the example of conditional situations, the degree of interaction of the highest commanding ranks, the correctness of their decisions, and so on, are checked. In general, as they say, "table wars" for the generals.
In early February 1981, just such exercises - for the fleets of the USSR - were held at the Leningrad Naval Academy under the command of the commander of the Navy, Sergei Georgievich Gorshkov.
Naval Academy today
All the top naval commanders flew to the gathering. The Pacific Fleet was no exception. His delegation, which arrived on February 1, consisted of 39 people:
Commander of the Pacific Fleet (Pacific Fleet) Admiral E. N. Spiridonov
Vice Admiral R. A. Golosov, Chief of Staff of the Pacific Fleet
Commander of the 4th Submarine Flotilla, Vice Admiral V. G. Belashev
Vice-Admiral V. D. Sabaneev, Head of the Political Department of the Pacific Fleet
Commander of the Primorsky Flotilla of the RS Pacific Fleet, Vice Admiral V. F. Tikhonov
Rear Admiral V. Kh. Konovalov, Head of the 3rd Directorate of the Navy of the Far East Troops
Deputy Commander for Combat Training, Rear Admiral V. Ya. Korban
Head of Intelligence Rear Admiral G. F. Leonov
Submarine Squadron Commander Rear Admiral V.P. Makhlai
Deputy Chief of Staff of the Pacific Fleet, Rear Admiral F. A. Mitrofanov
Member of the military council and head of the political department of Sakhalin Rear Admiral V. A. Nikolaev
Deputy Commander of the 4th Submarine Flotilla of the Pacific Fleet, Rear Admiral R. I. Pirozhkov
Rear Admiral V. S. Postnikov, Head of the Political Department of the Primorsky Flotilla of the RS Pacific Fleet
Head of Department of the 10th Operational Squadron, Rear Admiral D. K. Chulkov
Commander of the Pacific Fleet Air Force, Lieutenant General G. V. Pavlov
First Deputy Commander of the Pacific Fleet Air Force Major General S. G. Danilko
Head of the Political Department of the Air Force of the Pacific Fleet, Major General V. V. Rykov
Already from the status of the posts alone, it becomes clear that the entire "heavyweight composition" of the Pacific Oceans has gathered.
In addition to the top, there were eleven captains of the first, second and third ranks, as well as twelve other military ranks, including even a midshipman and a senior sailor.
There were also six civilians who, of course, were not involved in the exercises. Among them: the wife of the commander of the Pacific Fleet, V.P. Spiridonov, the wife of the first secretary of the Primorsky Territory Executive Committee, the typist of the operational department of the headquarters of the Pacific Fleet, the daughter of the chief of fleet communications, the son and wife of the head of supply of the Primorsky Territory Executive Committee.
The latter, with the exception of the typist, arrived in Leningrad for quite clear reasons - the second capital of the USSR, the opportunity to "see the world", buy scarce goods, and so on.
The exercises, according to the results of which the Pacific Oceanians were recognized as the best and received personal gratitude from the commander of the Navy Gorshkov, lasted less than a week. Therefore, on February 7, the return flight Pushkin - Vladivostok was scheduled. At the same time, the chief of staff of Golosov refused to return with everyone, because he decided to go with the command of the Northern Fleet to Murmansk, where he had numerous relatives.
It was to fly on the Tu-104. Naturally, the plane did not belong to Aeroflot, but to the 25th Naval Missile aviation division named after Hero of the USSR Ostryakov, which was part of the Pacific Fleet. Its crew consisted of six people under the command of 51-year-old Lieutenant Colonel A. Inyushin, an extremely experienced pilot who had flown 8150 flight hours during his career, of which 5730 hours on the Tu-104.
And, as they say, nothing foreshadowed trouble. "Carcass" - the plane, although very capricious and problematic, but the crew was quite qualified, and the weather, despite the snowfall, was quite normal. In general, there was not even a hint of an approaching catastrophe.
At about 16:00, when the luggage had already been loaded and all the passengers sat down in their seats, the aircraft commander Inyushin took the plane to the runway and, after receiving permission to take off, proceeded to the standard procedure for accelerating. However, events soon began to develop in a completely unpredictable way.
Still not really accelerating, the Tu-104 abruptly took off from the ground and began to reach supercritical angles of attack, or, simply speaking, began to lift the nose up too much. One might think that the pilots decided to flaunt their skills in front of the military who were at the airfield, but such a maneuver on the Tu-104, and even at low speed, could only be done by a suicide. In this flight mode, even the most balanced and stable aircraft will quickly go into a stall, not to mention the Carcass. This is what happened.
Schematic representation of the takeoff and subsequent fall of the Tu-104
Eyewitnesses who were at the airport at that moment described what was happening as a cross hovering in the sky, since the aircraft, having reached a height of about 50 meters, took an almost vertical position in the air, and then began to roll onto the right wing. The situation was aggravated by a rather strong headwind, which only contributed to the roll.
Well, then there was a predictable end. The Tu-104 began to fall rapidly and, turning over, crashed flat on the ground a few dozen meters from the runway and immediately caught fire.
Photos of those killed in a plane crash
The fire from tons of spilled fuel for a long time did not allow them to approach the wreckage and help the victims. However, most likely, there was already no one to save - the force of impact on the ground was too great. 43 passengers and all six crew members died on the spot. Another passenger died on the way to the hospital. They were Senior Lieutenant Valentin Zubarev. At the time of the collision, he was next to the pilots and was literally thrown out through the glass of the forward cockpit of the navigator. Thus, no one survived.
To say that the catastrophe caused a shock in the military and political leadership of the Soviet Union would be an understatement. Indeed, even during the years of World War II, the USSR lost ten admirals, of which only four died directly in combat conditions. And here, literally in a second, thirteen admirals and three generals at once - almost all the top leadership of the Pacific Fleet and its Air Force, with the exception of the chief of staff Golosov, who decided to fly on another flight.
In the Cold War, the most combat-ready Soviet fleet is decapitated - these inputs quickly led to the initial conclusion of a planned sabotage. The Pacific has even been placed on full alert in the event of an invasion by NATO forces. But gradually the version began to crumble.
The crew of the aircraft consisted of fully verified people - not a single civilian, all the military from the state of the fleet. Yes, and on the military airfield Pushkin, which in itself was guarded quite strongly, and during the days of the stay of the highest ranks - especially strongly, outsiders could not get. Not to mention all sorts of fictions, but such periodically pop up, as if the saboteur hid in the cabin of the aircraft.
Rudolf Alexandrovich Golosov is the only one from the Pacific team who refused to fly on the ill-fated flight
Although it should be noted that the shadow of suspicion still fell on the chief of staff Rudolf Golosov, they say, the death of the fleet commander was even beneficial for him, since he could take his place. Yes, and his behavior at first looked strange: he took it and refused to fly with the others. But later his alibi was confirmed - in the north he really had numerous relatives and even a daughter, to whom he, taking the opportunity, went.
In the end, the option of committing sabotage on the Tu-104 was completely dismissed.
There was also a version about errors in piloting the aircraft. Yes, the aircraft commander was indeed a very experienced pilot with great experience. But the Tu-104 is a very difficult and problematic car. It was not for nothing that he held the palm among Soviet aircraft in terms of the ratio of accidents to the number of units produced, and the flight safety on it almost completely depended on the professionalism of the pilots. Here, even the most hardened pilot can make a mistake or lose control of the situation.
In addition, it turned out that the 25th missile-carrying aviation division, which included both the crew and the aircraft, was, as they say now, a court combat formation. Checks of the personnel of its units were infrequent and sometimes were purely formal.
But the liner and all the people on board were not killed by the pilots. Moreover, from the memoirs of R. Golosov, it is known that the flight recorders recorded: at the moment of takeoff from the ground, the crew did not even touch the steering wheel.
The fault was the cargo that the high officials decided to take with them from Leningrad.
At that time, a total shortage of food and non-food products reigned in the country. Of course, no one died of hunger, but it was extremely difficult to get something that did not belong to the basic needs. Especially when it came to large and significant purchases.
Despite the fact that admirals and ranks of a lower rank still possessed some and very significant blat in this matter, the Far East itself was not supplied very well. Therefore, the flight to Leningrad was a convenient opportunity to buy and bring home something scarce. This played a cruel joke.
On the return flight, the "admiral" Tu-104 was stuffed with luggage to the brim. In the luggage compartment, according to some sources, they loaded several furniture sets, two or three rolls of printing paper for the needs of the fleet, weighing half a ton each, televisions, as well as many smaller items, including even boxes of oranges.
The plane turned out to be heavily overloaded, and this begs the question: how could the crew even allow such a situation? The answer is very simple and lies in large shoulder straps. It is in civil aviation that pilots are the main ones on board. But admirals and generals as passengers, at best, can remain silent on all the requests of the crew, and at worst ... In general, you can not even speak. No commander to them, even a lieutenant colonel, not a decree. Not always and not everywhere, but it happened, and it still happens now.
This was confirmed by the commander of the Tu-104, Lieutenant Colonel Inyushin, who, long before the disaster, wrote complaints that his plane was constantly flying with a large overload, carrying large furniture, refrigerators, washing machines, and so on.
Overloading itself, of course, can cause a plane crash, but two more factors led to the events of February 7, 1981: a considerable part of the heavy luggage was placed in the tail section of the aircraft, thereby shifting its center of gravity, and they did not bother to securely fasten the rest of the cargo.
Therefore, according to one of the versions closest to reality, when the plane began its takeoff run along the runway, the rolls of printing paper weighing half a ton each, which were closer to the center, fell off their seats and rolled into the tail section, which created even greater imbalance. As a result, the Tu-104, still not really accelerating, took off from the ground and began to uncontrollably reach supercritical angles of attack and, soaring into the sky, collapsed down. In such a situation, nothing depended on the pilots - none of their actions could have prevented the catastrophe.
The tragedy in Pushkin was a really terrible blow both for the USSR Ministry of Defense in general and for the Pacific Fleet in particular. The death of so many admirals and generals became a kind of gloomy record from which it was necessary to draw the right conclusions. And they were made, although not all of them succumbed to logic.
So, for example, the USSR Ministry of Defense finally abandoned the use of the Tu-104 - the most emergency in terms of the ratio of the number of incidents to the number of aircraft produced. Even Aeroflot, with all the brakes of bureaucracy and funding, moved away from the operation of these machines almost two years before these events.
Decrees were also issued that forbade high-ranking commanders from flying with their deputies and obligated these passengers to strictly obey the requirements of aircraft crews, regardless of rank and title. In addition, rules governing the weighing and securing of luggage have been introduced. The only question is whether all this was observed in practice.
Only now they went too far with the search for the perpetrators. In principle, it is clear that the cause of this disaster is not in technology and not in the crew's mistakes. It is a chain of events that collectively led to what happened. But it was necessary to find the last one, as is customary with us. They were made by Colonel A. Yakovlev from the management of the 25th missile-carrying aviation division, which owned the crashed Tu-104. Of course, they didn’t put him in jail, but they removed him from his post.
Monument to those who died in a plane crash on February 7, 1981 at the Serafimovsky cemetery in St. Petersburg
And, of course, all information about the crash was completely classified. All that was available from information to the general public was a small note on the penultimate page of one of the issues of the Krasnaya Zvezda newspaper. Even relatives who came to the funeral in Leningrad (most of the dead were buried there) were under an obligation not to tell anyone why and where they were going. In general, a typical practice of hushing up, which does not make it possible to draw conclusions from what happened, so that such stories do not repeat themselves.