A 43-year-old Russian cargo plane crashed Sunday minutes after taking off from a Moscow airport, killing all seven crew on board, officials said.
The An-12 four-engine turboprop belonging to the private Atran carrier went down at 4:22 am local time, just after taking off from the Domodedovo airport southeast of Moscow, Russian Emergency Situations spokesman Viktor Beltsov said.
The plane slammed into a field, shattering debris over a wide area. There were no injuries on the ground, Beltsov said. The cause of the crash was not immediately clear.
Rescue teams have recovered both of the plane's cockpit recorders, which are vital for investigators to determine the reason behind the crash, Beltsov said.
He said the plane was carrying nine tons of cargo, well below its maximum payload of 20 tons. It was bound for Bratsk, in eastern Siberia.
Overloading has been a reason behind many crashes of cargo planes in Russia, and experts say that many carriers have routinely forged flight documents to get more cargo on board, neglecting safety.
The An-12 was designed in the 1950s and built in big numbers for both military and civilian transport. More than 100 such planes are still in service in Russia and other nations. The plane that crashed was to be discarded later this year, the RIA Novosti news agency reported, quoting aviation authorities.
Russia and the other former Soviet republics had the world's worst air traffic safety record last year, with an accident rate 13 times the world average, according to the International Air Transport Association.
Experts have blamed weak government controls, poor pilot training and a cost-cutting mentality among many carriers that affects safety.
On Saturday, a small private helicopter crashed in the Ural Mountains region of Udmurtia, killing all five people on board, Beltsov said. Also on Saturday, a Boeing 757 of Russia's private VIM-Avia carrier bound for Naples, Italy, had to return to Moscow after a crack was discovered in its windscreen, the Interfax news agency reported. It landed safely.
Recent crashes have focused attention on Russia's air safety record.
An Armenian passenger plane crashed in stormy weather Wednesday off Russia's Black Sea coast while readying to land, killing all 113 people on board - most of them Armenians.