Moscow, Siberian air passengers had to get out and push their plane in temperatures of minus 52 degrees Celsius after its chassis froze, Russian prosecutors said on Wednesday.
The extraordinary story emerged after a passenger posted a video on YouTube showing a group of cheery travellers pushing the Tupolev plane on the snow-covered runway in Igarka, which is beyond the Arctic Circle. Let's go, passengers in thick winter coats shout and whoop as they put their hands on the wings of the plane and shove it several metres along the runway.
Everyone wants to go home, one man says. Transport prosecutors in western Siberia said they were investigating the incident, which took place yesterday. Due to the low air temperatures, the chassis's brake system froze and a tow truck was unable to move the plane onto the taxiway to carry out the flight, prosecutors confirmed in a statement. The passengers on board got out of the plane and started pushing it onto the taxiway.
Even for Russians inured to long winters of sub-zero temperatures, the passengers' can-do chutzpah has drawn awed admiration. Siberians are so tough that for them pushing a frozen plane along a runway is a piece of cake, said Komsomolskaya Pravda daily. Social media too was abuzz with praise for the passengers. The plane with 74 passengers on board was being operated by a Siberian airline called Katekavia which is part of UTair group. It was flying from Igarka, around 1,750 miles (2,800 kilometres) northeast of Moscow, to the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk.
The technical director of Krasnoyarsk-based Katekavia, Vladimir Artemenko, acknowledged the incident took place to Rossiyskaya Gazeta daily. That morning it was minus 52 (minus 61 Fahrenheit). The plane had stood on the runway for 24 hours and the pilots forgot to take off the parking brake. That caused the brake pads to freeze up, he said.
Passengers pushed the plane until it was able to turn and then the tow truck took over, he said. The flight then took off and went smoothly. In 2012 a UTair plane crashed in Siberia, killing 29, after the wings were not de-iced.