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Soviets Blame Aborted Takeoff on Fuel Flooding

September 5, 1988

LONDON (AP) _ The chief designer of a Soviet cargo plane said Monday that engine flooding caused the aborted takeoff of the huge aircraft at the Farnborough Air Show, Europe’s leading aviation event.

Konstantine Lechakov told a news conference at the Soviet Embassy a new engine for the Antonov 124, the world’s heaviest plane, would be sent from the Soviet Union but was delayed awaiting overflight permission from West Germany.

The blue-and-white aircraft remained grounded at Farnborough, 35 miles southwest of London. Its takeoff was aborted Sunday, the opening day of the show.

It was supposed to give display flights daily during the week-long show, at which the Soviets also are showing their most advanced fighters, two MiG-29s.

At the embassy news conference members of the Soviet delegation praised the MiGs and were complimentary about rival Western combat aircraft on display, but dodged questions about Soviet production figures and sales targets.

The delegation includes aviation officials, aircraft designers and a test pilot.

″There was an engine surge. The reason for this engine surge was the air bleed system,″ Lechakov said through an embassy interpreter. Aides who were questioned later said that meant engine flooding, or excessive fuel.

A tongue of flames 20 feet long shot from one jet engine as the aircraft moved down the runway and the pilot shut down the three other engines of the 400-ton plane.

Farnborough organizers have stressed safety after the Aug. 28 air show disaster at Ramstein, West Germany, where 52 people were killed and more than 300 injured when three Italian stunt flying aircraft collided and one crashed into the crowd.

Viktor A. Maksimovsky, deputy aviation minister, was asked why Moscow had decided to show the MiG-29 in the West and he said it was evidence of Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev’s policy of glasnost, or more openness.

″The participation of the Soviet Union this year at Farnborough is proof of it,″ he declared.

Test pilot Valery Menitsky, who flew a MiG-29 in precision manuevers Sunday, praised the Western fighters on display, including the American F-18 and F-16 and the Mirage 2000 from France.

″But to be perfectly frank, I like our plane much better,″ he said.

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