Hardy Siberians undaunted by aircraft frozen on tarmac as temperatures sank to a biting minus 52C
Fearing the UTair service to regional capital Krasnoyarsk could be delayed, many of the 70 passengers used brute strength to free the 30-ton Tupolev 134. Picture: Ivan Ivanov
When their plane literally froze on the ground at Igarka airport, above the Arctic Circle, there was no need to panic. Fearing the UTair service to regional capital Krasnoyarsk could be delayed, many of the 70 passengers used brute strength to free the 30-ton Tupolev 134.
Men are heard shouting: 'Come on, push!' As one was heard saying on a video of the incident: 'Real men can plant a tree, build a house, and push a plane.'
Another added: 'We just want to get back home.'
The passengers pushed the plane's wings, moving it backwards.
Problems developed on one of the coldest days of the year because the wrong kind of grease was used for the landing gear - unsuitable for Far North locations.
Problems developed on one of the coldest days of the year because the wrong kind of grease was used for the landing gear - unsuitable for Far North locations. Pictures: social media, Ivan Ivanov
Vladimir Artemenko, technical director of Katekavia, which ran the flight jointly with UTair, said that the plane was technically serviceable, but the chilly temperatures led it to freeze up.
The airport's tractor could not move the Tu-134 because its brake pads were frozen. 'When people pushed the plane, the wheel cranked out, and then the aircraft could continue to move,' he explained.
The plane later took off and landed safely in Krasnoyarsk. Most of the passengers were oil and gas workers on their way home after a stint in the Arctic production flields.
Reports of the incident led to worldwide praise for the stoic Siberians for their 'can-do chutzpah', in the words of Agence France Presse. 'Siberians are so tough that for them pushing a frozen plane along a runway is a piece of cake,' added Russian daily newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda.
Social media sites were equally gushing in commending the oil workers. 'Who mentioned sanctions?... We just push together and off we fly,' wrote Dmitry Kozlov on Twitter.
'It's just an ordinary morning in Russia. People push-start a plane at minus 50,' said Lentach.
The amusement did not extend to some officials, however. West Siberian transport prosecutor's aide Oksana Gorbunova rebuked the plane movers. 'Passengers were asked to leave the plane and go to the bus standing nearby,' she said. 'After that, some of them voluntarily left the bus and went to the plane, trying to assist in moving it using physical force.
'Naturally, the plane was moved by the truck, because people physically could not do it. It looks like a joke. It would be funny if it could not have dire consequences: people could damage the casing and flaps of the aircraft.'
Airport chief Maxim Aksyonov claimed: 'Most likely, the plane's passengers, oil workers, decided to do a kind of 'selfie'. It was a good joke and it became a big thing on the Internet.'
However, one of the 'hero' passengers told Life News insisted the passengers did push the plane. 'We were on the bus that took us on the plane when we were asked to help the tractor,' he said. 'Before that, we had already spent one day at the airport, waiting for our departure.
'We pushed it a short distance - about five metres, maybe more. I worked for four years on shifts, but do not recall that we pushed the plane previously.'
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