September 7, 2011 will be remembered as one of the worst days in hockey history. An airplane carrying the KHL’s Lokomotiv Yaroslavl team crashed just after takeoff from Tunoshna Airport, 11 miles southeast of Yaroslavl in central Russia. The team was on its way to Belarus, where they were set to begin their regular season against Dynamo Minsk.
The aircraft was an Yakovlev Yak-42, an outdated Soviet-era plane that was due to be phased out next year. In Russia the plane is known for its woeful air safety record, and just two months ago 44 people were killed when an Antonov-24 caught fire in midair before crashing in western Siberia. There have been eight fatal crashes in Russia just this year.
According to Slava Malamud of Sport Express, Kommersant, a Russian newspaper, reported Yak-Service, the airliner operating the plane, was ranked last by the European Air Safety Commission. The New York Times reported that the company, founded in 1993, was suspended for three months in 2009 by Russian authorities because of “major safety deficiencies.” The BBC reports that the aircraft broke into two pieces after hitting a radio mast before crashing into Volga river. The Times notes that eight Yak-42s have crashed over the years, killing 570.