Airlines ground Russian passenger jet

Jan. 13, 2011 at 9:51 AM

MOSCOW, Jan. 13 (UPI) -- Six Russian airlines have grounded their Tupolev Tu-154B passenger jets following a fire and explosion that killed three people, officials said.

At least 43 people were injured in the Jan. 1 incident when the plane burst into flames while taxiing for takeoff from Surgut, RIA Novosti reported.

Shortly after catching fire, the plane exploded in a fireball, spreading flames across an area about the size of a city block.

Rostransnadzor, Russia's transport safety agency, said the jets would remain grounded until the cause of the incident has been determined.

Aeroflot, Russia's leading airline, took all of its remaining 23 Tu-154 planes out of service last year.

Polish President Lech Kaczynski was killed in April 2009 when a Polish Air Force Tu-154 came down in bad weather near the western Russian city of Smolensk. Russia blamed the crash on pilot error.

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