Rescue of Stranded Ural Airlines A320 Looking Unlikely

By Spyros Georgilidakis | April 15, 2024

The fate of a Ural Airlines Airbus A320 sitting in a Siberian field now looks grim, with the airline saying that a rescue is impractical.

This is an accident that happened in September last year. The crew of a Ural Airlines Airbus A320 were performing flight U6-1383, to Omsk Tsentralny Airport (UNOO). They were on approach into Omsk but abandoned it. Initially, the given reason for this was weather-related.

Rescue of Stranded Ural Airlines A320 Looking Unlikely
Photo (upscaled): Siberian Transport Prosecutor’s Office

But later reports suggested that the aircraft faced hydraulic issues. For operational reasons, its crew decided to divert to Novosibirsk Tolmachevo Airport (UNNT). However, some reports indicate that the hydraulic failure kept the crew from retracting their gear. This increased their fuel consumption.

Needs Must?

Eventually, the flight crew realized that they wouldn’t reach Novosibirsk. Before running out of fuel completely, they decided to land in an open field, which they did successfully. None of the 156 passengers and 6 crew were hurt.

Photo (upscaled): Siberian Transport Prosecutor’s Office

This field is about two-thirds of the way from Omsk to Novosibirsk, and the aircraft had around 200kg (441lbs) of fuel remaining when it came to a stop. The Airbus has been there ever since.

Initially, Ural wanted to rescue this A320. The field is in Siberia, so the idea was to level the muddy ground, and wait for winter temperatures to freeze it over. Unfortunately for Ural, the rescue plan appears to have failed because the ground the A320 is on never got “frozen enough” for a takeoff to be a practical proposition.

Rescue of Stranded Ural Airlines A320 Looking Unlikely
Photo (upscaled): @igorsushko via X (formerly Twitter)

As we have seen, the war in Ukraine and international sanctions mean that Russian airlines can’t easily source spare parts – let alone replacement aircraft. This was why Ural wanted to rescue this A320.

Ural Abandoning A320 Rescue Plans

This is in contrast to an older incident involving a Ural A321, which was scrapped after ingesting multiple birds and losing both engines on the takeoff roll. It landed safely in a cornfield and was later broken up.

Rescue of Stranded Ural Airlines A320 Looking Unlikely
Photo: Ural Airlines

It now seems that the same fate awaits this aircraft. Realistically, a safe rescue of the Ural A320 would involve at least partially paving the field. The airline actually considered doing so. But it appears that, even if we factor in Russia’s aircraft supply constraints, such a solution would cost too much to be practical. One reason is the amount of materials and equipment needed to reach this remote site.

Meanwhile, Ural has to pay rent for the field the aircraft sits in, right next to Moskovka village, about 100 nautical miles away from Novosibirsk. The airline also needed to hire equipment and people to look after the aircraft and keep it operational there.

The accident aircraft in better times. Photo: Anna Zvereva, CC BY-SA 2.0

So it appears that the airline is now looking at cutting its losses. If a rescue can’t happen, Ural will instead strip the jet of all useful parts that it can carry away, to support the rest of its A320 fleet.


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