Ukrainians commemorate the victims of the Sknyliv air show tragedy. It is exactly 15 years since the accident took place in Lviv region, western Ukraine.
The disaster occurred on July 27, 2002. A Sukhoi Su-27 fighter of Ukraine’s air force, piloted by Volodymyr Toponar and Yuriy Yegorov crashed during an aerobatics presentation at Sknyliv airfield. Both pilots timely ejected and survived, receiving minor injuries. 77 viewers lost their lives and another 543 suffered consequences of the crash; a hundred of those were taken to hospital with head injuries, burns and bone fractures.
The-then Ukrainian president Leonid Kuchma publicly blamed the military for the disaster and dismissed the-then head of the air force. The defense minister Volodymyr Shkidchenko sent in his resignation, too, but it was rejected.
In June 2005, a military court sentenced pilot Volodymyr Toponar and co-pilot Yuriy Yegorov to 14 and 8 years in jail, respectively. The court found the two pilots and three other military officials guilty of failing to follow orders, negligence and violating flight rules. In addition, they paid huge fines. The crew's main flight trainer was acquitted for lack of evidence. Yegorov was released in 2008 after the presidential decree reducing his sentence to three and a half years.
While the pilots were assigned the majority of the blame, which included accusations of attempting maneuvers with which they were not experienced, Toponar had requested an additional training flight at the airfield where the display was to be performed; this request was denied.
After the verdict was announced, Toponar said he planned to appeal, insisting the crash was due to technical problems and a faulty flight plan; some experts suggested that the pilots were slow to react to automated warnings issued by the flight computer.