Russian air ambulance crash in Afghanistan: two killed, four rescued

Spotter LEVT / Wikimedia Commons

A Dassault Falcon 10 business jet, bearing the registration RA-09011 and operated by the Russian company Athletic Group, has disappeared from radar screens in a mountainous area in Badakhshan province, Afghanistan.  

The aircraft, engaged in a private medical evacuation flight, was en route from Pattaya, Thailand, to Moscow, Russia, and was scheduled to conduct two technical landings. On January 20, 2024, it took off from Gaya International Airport (GAY) in India and was bound for its second refueling stop at Tashkent-Islam Karimov International Airport (TAS) in Uzbekistan. 

However, after reportedly encountering a fuel shortage, the flight crew decided to divert to Kulob Airport (TJU) in Tajikistan. A source told the Russian news agency RIA Novosti that the fuel shortage might have been caused by an error in calculating fuel, coupled with a strong headwind. 

Subsequently, pilots reported that the first engine had failed, followed by the second. The aircraft crashed in a remote, mountainous region of Badakhshan, north of Afghanistan. 

A team has been dispatched to the crash site, as confirmed by Badakhshan provincial government spokesperson Zabihullah Amiri in a statement to Reuters. The remote location, situated over 200 kilometers (124 miles) from Fayzabad, the provincial capital, posed significant challenges, resulting in the rescue team taking several hours to reach the crash site. 

Two Russian nationals who were on board the private Falcon plane lost their lives in the crash. The Afghan military successfully rescued the other four occupants. 

“Survivors of the incident were successfully rescued and taken to the center of the Ko Ab district,” reported Afghan Radio Hurriyat, which also released footage documenting the rescue operation. 

Initial confusion arose regarding the ownership of the aircraft, with previous reports indicating that the Falcon 10 belonged to the Moroccan carrier Alfa Air, bearing registration CN-TKN. However, it was later clarified that the jet had been sold to the Russian company Athletic Group in late 2023. 

The incident has prompted investigations into the circumstances leading to the crash, including what caused the fuel shortage. 

UPDATE 22-01-2024, 11:00 (UTC +3): The article was updated with information from the Russian Federal Air Transport Agency. 

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