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Russia’s leading woman in aviation is killed in air crash

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01 April 2019


Natalia Fileva was called today the ‘iron lady’ of Russian aviation. Picture: Timur Ivanov

Three died in the crash involving a single-engine, six-seat Epic-LT aircraft that crashed in a field on approach to the small airport at the town of Egelsbach in southwestern Germany.

The plane en route from France burst into flames on impact almost complete destroying the single engine turbo-prop aircraft. 

The two other killed were Fileva’s father Valery Karachev and the pilot who was named as Andrey Dikun.

Fileva, who co-owned S7 - also known as Siberia Airlines - with her ex-pilot husband Vladislav Filev, the group’s CEO, was reported by to be worth $600 million. 

She was called today the ‘iron lady’ of Russian aviation, pioneering the improvement of the civilian fleet leading to greater safety and comfort, and building perhaps the country's best airline. 

Crash site

Crash site

The plane en route from France burst into flames on impact almost complete destroying the single engine turbo-prop aircraft.

Fileva and her husband - who has been called a Russian Elon Musk - had three children and adopted a fourth girl. 

She was Russia’s leading woman in aviation and one of Siberia’s most prominent businesspeople. 

She was the brains of the branding and marketing of S7 - from its hub in Novosibirsk, Siberia’s largest city - and turning the airline into the second largest in Russia after Aeroflot. 

For a decade it has been part of the OneWorld Alliance alongside American Airlines, British Airways and Japan Airlines.

Publicity shy and averse to flaunting her wealth, she could be scathing about the baleful sway of bureaucrats in holding back private business. 

Natalia Fileva speaking in Sochi

Natalia Fileva speaking at investment forum in December.

In December she spoke against inviting officials to investment forums.

'They don’t do business, they are not real people,' she said. 

'You are talking about fighting corruption, and I want to ask where they get money for their suits and shoes? 

‘Everyone of them has a suit which costs at least $1000.’

Fileva had ambitions for S7’s involvement in sea-launched rockets carrying satellites into space. 

Today Dmitry Rogozin, head of Roscosmos, said: ‘Condolences to the husband and family of Natasha (Natalia) Fileva from RosKosmos. 

‘She was a great enthusiast of aviation and cosmonautics. Her death is a personal tragedy for us all.’

Natalia Fileva

Natalia Fileva

Fileva had ambitions for S7’s involvement in sea-launched rockets carrying satellites into space. 

Reports said that Fileva was flying with her father to Germany 'for medical treatment'.

A source said: ‘Natalia Valeryevna (Fileva) and her father have died. They were flying to Germany for medical treatment.’

An official with Deutsche Flugsicherung (DFS), the company in charge of air traffic control for Germany, told TASS that the pilot presumably lost control of the aircraft while performing a turn.

'I cannot say for sure what caused the tragedy, but I may presume that the pilot possibly lost control of the aircraft for some reason while performing a turn,' he said, adding that the plane crashed 'directly upon landing'.

The official said the pilot steered the plane under the Visual Flight Rules (VFR), not instructions from DFS radars, which is a standard procedure when weather conditions are generally good and visibility is sufficient.

Natalia Fileva with family

Natalia and Vladislav Filev

Natalia Fileva with daughter

Natalia Fileva with her family, husband and daughter.

S7 issued a statement saying: ‘On March 31, 2019, S7 Airlines shareholder Natalia Valeryevna Fileva died at the age of 55 when her private Epic-LT plane was preparing to land at Egelsbach Airport (Frankfurt-on-Main). 

‘The circumstances of this tragedy are not known.’

The company added that the air disaster would be investigated by an international commission along with Russian air safety authorities.

The German Federal Bureau of Aircraft Accident Investigation (BFU) has launched an investigation into the accident.

Fileva was born in Novosibirsk and graduated from Novosibirsk State Technical University as an engineer in radio mechanics.

She later was awarded a degree in industrial management from Novosibirsk National Economy University.

In 2018 she was the fourth in the Russian Forbes list of richest women in the country. The couple were seen as a highly successful husband and wife business team. 

One account said: ‘Natalia became the main strategic mind of the company, and her husband was in charge of public relations and contacts with journalists. 

‘It is known that she was the one who created the new image of the company – she initiated rebranding and change of international name for S7 Airlines.'

Tatiana Fileva

Tatiana Fileva

Tatiana Fileva

The couple’s eldest daughter Tatiana also worked for S7.

Oleg Panteleev, head of analytic service of Aviaport company, said she was ‘not really a public person but her influence on the business group (was) enormous’.

Tributes poured in today to Fileva. 

Director of Irkutsk airport development Andrey Andreev said: ‘The Filev couple went under nicknames Mama and Papa among S7 Group staff. Many felt they were orphaned today. 

‘It is incredibly painful that Natalia Fileva, a formidable woman, a bright personality and a professional to every cell of her bones, is no longer with us. 

‘She combined humanity and entrepreneurship, the romanticism  of aviation and understanding of world aviation trends.’

She led the way in improving the Russian air fleet, he said, ‘setting an example to many state officials in aviation'. 

‘Thanks to her energy and pushing skills the Russian aviation code was modernised and got closer to world standards’. 

Vladislav Filev landed on his Epic in Novosibirsk

Filev's Epic plane pictured in Novosibirsk

Vladislav Filev pictured as he landed his Epic-LT in Novosibirsk.  

The deputy head of Kommersant newspaper, Renata Yambayeva, said Fileva was ‘a true partner, a true manager, a true aviator and a real woman. 

‘I knew her from the first days when the Filevs purchased ‘Sibir’ airline. She was always the heart of this business. She was its wings. 

‘Back then in a very tough and male-dominated Russian aviation these two aliens not just survived but forced everyone respect them….to respect them together. 

‘You can’t write in a newspaper how she could smile, terrify, be soft and be made of iron.’ 

The couple’s eldest daughter Tatiana also worked for S7.

In 2015, Filev had an accident in his Epic LT at Moscow’s Domodedovo airport. It is unclear if this was the same aircraft in which his wife died. 

In this incident, the plane failed to stop at the tarmac when landing because Filev ‘forgot to drop the landing gear’. 

He was reported to be extremely tired after a long flight of several thousands kilometres. The last leg was from Brno to Moscow.

Comments (1)

RIP a great lady. and in my opinion could have been sitting in the White House ( the Russian one...) or the Kremlin.
Condolences to family, relatives, friends and business partners.
MORAK Benedikt, Moscow
01/04/2019 19:24

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