May 7, 2023 | Disasters

Sknyliv Air Show Disaster – The Deadliest Ever

Morgan Collier

Morgan Collier

On July 27, 2002, a Ukrainian Air Force Sukhoi Su-27 piloted by Volodymyr Toponar and co-piloted by Yuriy Yegorov crashed while performing an aerobatics display at Sknyliv airfield. The air exhibition was organized in honor of the Ukrainian Air Force’s 14th Air Corps’ 60th anniversary. While the attendees anticipated a day filled with enjoyment, the reality turned out to be tragically different.

How Did It Happen?

During a low-altitude maneuver, a Su-27 began a rolling motion with a downward trajectory. As it attempted to level out, the left wing made contact with the ground while still in descent. Sensing a loss of control, the two pilots ejected from the aircraft.

Although the two pilots sustained minor injuries, the same cannot be said for the countless individuals who were in the path of the jet.

Following its initial collision, the plane skidded along the ground and struck a motionless plane before erupting into flames and somersaulting towards a group of spectators. This catastrophic event resulted in the tragic loss of 77 onlookers, including 28 children, while an additional 543 individuals were wounded.

The Fallout

In the aftermath of the tragedy, President Leonid Kuchma publicly assigned responsibility to the military and dismissed General Viktor Strelnykov from his post as the head of the air force.

A Ukrainian military court handed down prison sentences to pilot Volodymyr Toponar and co-pilot Yuriy Yegorov on June 24, 2005. Toponar was sentenced to 14 years, while Yegorov received an eight-year sentence.

After the court’s decision, Toponar declared his intention to file an appeal, arguing that the crash resulted from technical issues and an inadequate flight plan.