DEADLY PERFORMANCE. Ukrainian Militarys Prestige Crashes on Lvov Airfield
Author: Svetlana Stepanenko
DEADLY PERFORMANCE. Ukrainian Militarys Prestige Crashes on Lvov Airfield. (By Svetlana Stepanenko. Vremya novostei, July29, 2002, pp.1-2. Condensed text:) Kiev A national day of mourning was declared in Ukraine today in memory of the victims of the terrible tragedy that occurred Saturday [July27] at Lvovs Sknyliv Airfield. During an air show attended by 10,000 spectators, an SU-27 fighter jet crashed into the stands and then exploded, turning about 100 people into a bloody jumble. The shocking television news footage shows peoples remains being identified literally from body parts. Ukrainian Defense Minister Vladimir Shkidchenko submitted his resignation yesterday to the head of state. As fate would have it, Mr.Shkidchenko owed his own appointment in October of last year to another air disaster. He became defense minister after the dismissal of Gen.Aleksandr Kuzmuk, who took responsibility for the Russian passenger jet shot down by a Ukrainian missile [see Current Digest, Vol.53, No.41, pp.11-12, and No.43, p.16]. After the October disaster, Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma categorically banned all missile launches on Ukrainian territory. And yesterday the head of state banned all air shows as well. The Ukrainian militarys activities are being increasingly restricted.
The Lvov disaster occurred at 12:52p.m. The fighter, simulating a "flight under a bridge," a maneuver demonstrated for the first time in aviation history by [the famous early 20th-century flier] Valery Chkalov, came extremely close to the ground. But the pilot was unable to pull up from the dive and, after clipping a nearby AN-24 jet with children on board, crashed into the edge of the stands. Debris from the exploding SU-27 sprayed across the field for a distance of about 100 meters. As of yesterday, 83 people (19 of them children) were dead, and more than 100 were taken to the hospital with head injuries, burns and fractures. The pilots, who had ejected from the aircraft, sustained serious spinal injuries, but their lives are not in danger....