Superjet flights cancelled following Russian plane disaster

Moscow (AFP) –


Russian national carrier Aeroflot cancelled four flights that normally use the Sukhoi Superjet aircraft Wednesday, days after a deadly crash-landing in Moscow where 41 people died in a fire.

A total of five Aeroflot flights were cancelled by early evening, according to the Sheremetyevo airport online schedule, four of which usually use the Sukhoi Superjet.

These included flights to domestic destinations and the Swedish city of Gothenburg, AFP saw.

An Aeroflot spokeswoman had no immediate comment.

The Baltic news agency BNS reported a Tuesday Superjet flight from Moscow to Riga being delayed by three hours because passengers demanded a different plane after complaints of a burning smell, causing panic.

It departed after a safety check and arrived at its destination, reports said.

An investigation is ongoing following the accident on Sunday, in which a Superjet-100 bound for the Russian arctic city of Murmansk turned around after being struck by lightning.

It bounced on the runway and caught fire, with thick plumes of black smoke billowing into the air.

Aeroflot was once notorious for its poor safety record but in recent years its image has improved and it has not had a fatal accident in more than a decade.

The Russian Sukhoi Superjet-100 however has been dogged with problems since its launch in 2011 and Russia has struggled to convince foreign carriers to purchase it.

A petition to "completely stop flights on Sukhoi Superjet during ongoing investigation" has gathered over 170 thousand signatures in two days.

While there is no concrete evidence that the tragedy was a result of a technical problem, many Russian outlets published criticism of the Russian-assembled plane.

The plane required colossal government investment to be developed and has been promoted at the highest level.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, asked to comment on the petition said that "only competent aviation authorities" would be able to make a decision to ground the plane.

The jet is widely used by flagship airline Aeroflot on short-haul flights.