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Thu, Sep 21, 2023

Ural Airlines to Attempt Flying Stranded A320 from Siberian Field

Desperation’s Weird Wages

On Tuesday, 12 September 2023, an Airbus A320 narrow-body airliner then operating as Ural Airlines flight U6-1383 departed Russia’s Black Sea resort city of Sochi bound for the south-central Siberian municipality of Omsk—some 1,465-nautical-miles to the northeast.

After missing the approach to Omsk on account of inclement weather, the air-crew operating flight U6-1383 observed an annunciator light indicating the A320’s landing gear either hadn’t retracted normally, or that one or more of the aircraft’s landing gear doors remained open.

In time the pilots determined the A320’s nose-gear doors had stuck open. Nevertheless, the two aviators believed the additional drag would not preclude the flight’s proceeding without incident to Novosibirsk, Russia—a Siberian city some 330-nautical-miles east of Omsk and fully 1,795-nautical-miles east-northeast of Sochi. Flight U6-1383’s Pilot In Command (PIC/Captain) later stated he calculated the A320 would land at Novosibirsk’s Tolmachevo Airport (OVB) with 2,646-pounds of fuel remaining.

Regrettably, the PIC’s calculations proved inaccurate. Approximately 150-nautical-miles west of OVB, flight U6-1383’s air-crew determined the Airbus, in fact, lacked sufficient fuel to reach OVB. Contemporaneously short on fuel and options, the pilots commenced searching for a suitable emergency landing site.

Observing an open field, the pilots configured the aircraft and executed a successful off-airport landing, touching down with a meager 441-pounds of fuel remaining in the A320’s fuel-system—an amount equivalent to approximately five-minutes of flight-time.

The airliner, for reasons passing understanding, sustained negligible damage during the landing.

Comes now 18-September 2023 and Ural Airlines appears to be preparing the wayward A320 for what—if successful—would amount to an heroically unlikely takeoff from the field in which the machine has been mired for nearly one-week.

Crews have cleaned the aircraft, serviced its engines, removed or stowed the inflatable emergency slides by which the plane’s occupants disembarked, and dug the landing gear from the trenches dug into the soil during the aircraft’s landing roll. Whether the airline intends to attempt a takeoff directly from the field or from an adjacent road remains unclear. What can be stated with certainty, however, is that the aircraft, should it manage to become airborne, will proceed directly to OVB—some one-hundred-nautical-miles east of its present location—thereby making good, finally, on its former crew’s unrealized aspiration of landing on an improved surface.

Remarkably, the described A320 is not the first Ural Airlines aircraft to get back to nature—as it were. In 2019, a Ural Airbus A321 was forced down into a cornfield after being crippled by a post-rotation bird-strike. The aircraft fared less well than the A320 currently languishing west of Novosibirsk, however, and was broken down for scrap by Ural Airlines ground crews.

Aviation industry pundits posit Ural’s upcoming attempt to retrieve the ill-fated A320 from its Siberian predicament evinces the paucity of functional aircraft available to Russian airlines in the wake of wartime sanctions imposed upon the nation following Moscow’s February 2022 move against Ukraine.

Prior to the onset of the ongoing Russo-Ukrainian conflict, the stranded Ural Airlines’ A320 belonged to Dublin, Ireland-based aircraft leasing concern SMBC Aviation Capital. The jet is one of hundreds of airliners effectively pilfered from foreign, primarily Western lessors, at Moscow’s instigation.

FMI: www.uralairlines.ru/en

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