The crew of an Antonov An-24 landed on a frozen river, instead of the runway. Fortunately, none of the occupants suffered any injuries.
This incident happened on the 28th of December 2023, and is the subject of an investigation, according to the East Siberian Transport Prosecutor’s Office. It involved a Polar Airlines Antonov An-24, flying from Yakutsk Airport (UEEE).
Its destination was Zyryanka Airport (UESU). This was the first leg of flight YAP-217, which would have flown on to Srednekolymsk Airport (UESK). There were 30 passengers and 4 crew members on board the incident aircraft.
The weather conditions at the time of the incident are unclear. However, much of the ground was covered in snow. The same was true of the frozen Kolyma River, which is next to the runway that the An-24 crew planned to land on.
An-24 Intact On (or near?) The River
Some reports suggest that the pilots of the An-24 landed the aircraft on the river itself. Other statements say that the aircraft “…landed on a sand spit of the Kolyma River”. The circumstances around this An-24 incident become a bit clearer when we look at satellite imagery of the airport and the river.
The Zyryanka runway (16/34) is built on a sandbank, at an elevation not much higher than the river’s. On a number of occasions, the overflowing river has covered the runway completely.
So, it appears that the Polar Airlines crew may have mistaken a river sand bar for the airport, and landed their An-24 on it. Fortunately, the aircraft appears to have remained intact, standing on its landing gear.
Local reports indicate that the aircraft’s passengers managed to walk away from the aircraft. The airline confirmed that there were no casualties after the aircraft “…landed off the runway of the Zyryanka Airport”.
Polar also confirmed that the aircraft didn’t sustain any damage in the incident. However, it is unclear if the airline can fly the An-24 out of the river and put it back into service immediately. Polar Airlines is cooperating with the authorities and has flown investigators to the site on another aircraft.