On Saturday, a plane crash over Egypt's Sinai Peninsula killed all 224 people on board just 20 minutes into Kogalymavia Flight 9268 journey from Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt to St. Petersburg. The exact cause of the flight remains unknown, but a look into the history of the Russian airline and the aircraft, an Airbus A321, reveals that neither Kogalymavia nor the plane had stellar safety records. In the wake of the crash, Russia has grounded Kogalymavia's A321s due to obvious safety concerns.
Saturday's crash of Kogalymavia Flight 9268 killed 217 passengers, most of whom were Russian, and seven crew members as it reached its cruising altitude over Egypt. Saturday's crash is the deadliest aviation disaster in Russia's history, but it's certainly not the first major incident. Previously, the deadliest plane crash in Russian history occurred in 1985, when 200 people were killed in a crash in Uzbekistan. That crash was attributed in part to crew fatigue.
It's still too early to tell exactly what brought the Flight 9268 down — after all, we're still waiting to hear what those ever-important black boxes recorded in the moments leading up to the crash. Officials have all but ruled out terrorism and human error and have instead suggested that the crash was caused by the malfunction of the jet and its equipment (some have even used the word "disintegration"). If that's the case, then the airline's and the aircraft's safety records may be all the more important.
Kogalymavia, a small Russian airline usually branded as Metrojet, has maintained a relatively clean record. The only other major, known incident involving Kogalymavia occurred in 2011, when a fire broke out on one of its jets (not an Airbus A321) as it was taxing down the runway. The incident, which forced an emergency evacuation of the crew and passengers, killed three people and injured 43 others. Reports of this incident have been included in a timeline of Kogalymavia's history assembled by a pro-Russian government news source called Ruposters, although that timeline only goes back to 2010. The airline was founded in 1993.
Other reports reveal that although Kogalymavia did not have many major incidents, passengers might have had reason to worry. Since Saturday's crash, Olga Fink, a Russian blogger and frequent traveler, has claimed that the airline "should have been shut down long ago." According to Mashable, Fink took a Kogalymavia flight in 2013, in which she reportedly experienced "inebriated flight attendants," "four attempts at a landing," and "a rickety cabin where everything was broken."
A former Kogalymavia employee familiar with the A321 involved in Saturday's crash told a Russian news source called Business FM that the aircraft "had many problems." "There were many technical failures before," the anonymous employee said, according to Mashable.
The aircraft's problems, however, may not entirely be the fault of Kogalymavia (although the airline probably should have decommissioned the plane if it really was in bad shape). The A321 is part of the larger Airbus A320 family, which has been involved in several crashes in recent years. According to the Aviation Safety Network, A321 jets have been involved in 16 serious incidents since 1996. However, until Saturday's crash, only one of these incidents caused deaths, and several of them involved fires breaking out in the cabin.
Although the cause of Saturday's crash remains to be determined, it's clear that both the airline and the aircraft have had bumpy pasts. What's more, an incident of this severity could be enough to shut the small airline down for good. For now, though, Flight 9268 remains the latest in a string of mysterious plane crashes to happen in recent years and months.