The crash of Aeroflot Flight 593 is chilling. It resulted in the deaths of all of the passengers and crew members on board — and it was so preventable. This 1994 flight from Moscow to Hong Kong spun off course and crashed into the Kuznetsk Alatau mountain range, and for some time, no one understood why. There was no evidence of technical failure, but then, the black box was recovered. And the audio revealed that two children had been behind the controls at the time of the disaster.
The Black Box Tapes of Flight 593
The Russian aircraft carried 63 passengers, nine flight attendants, and three pilots, going from Sheremetyevo International Airport, Moscow, to Kai Tak Airport, Hong Kong, on Flight 593. The pilots included the captain, Andrey Viktorovich Danilov, the first officer, Igor Vasilyevich Piskaryov, and the relief pilot, Yaroslav Vladimirovich Kudrinsky. The passengers included 40 Russians and 23 foreigners, mainly businesspeople from Taiwan and Hong Kong. Thirty of the Russians were employees of the airline, or family members of employees, like 16-year-old Eldar and 12-year-old Yana, the relief pilot’s children. Then they came into the cockpit to visit their father, as heard over the black box tapes. 
During the visit, Kudrinsky offered his kids a chance to play pilot by the plane controls, which was against regulations. The autopilot was on, so Yana had no real power over the craft as she sat in the seat and held onto the wheel. But when Eldar took his turn, he turned the wheel hard enough to inadvertently turn off the autopilot for thirty seconds. The teenager was suddenly and unwittingly in partial control of the plane.
An indicator light turned on to alert the pilots of this partial turn-off of autopilot, but they had previously flown planes with audible warning signals and didn’t notice the light in time. Eldar noticed with horror that the aircraft left the flight course and turned right. “Get out!” Kudrinsky said in the recording, apparently to Eldar, who was still in the seat. Then, “Crawl out to the back!” The three pilots realized what had happened, but during those precious seconds, the plane veered at an almost 90-degree angle, a maneuver the craft couldn’t manage.
So it began descending until the plane stalled and switched to autopilot, and began to dive. The pilots regained control and pulled out of the dive, but they overcorrected. The plane began to spin.
As the pilots continued to scramble, Kudrinsky said, perhaps partially to his kids. “Easy, we’ll get out of it now. (pause) Everything’s fine. (pause) Pull backwards a little . . . take it easy . . . take it easy, I tell you.” Then the black box ends. 
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“Kid in the Cockpit”
Although the pilots recovered the spinning plane, it lost too much altitude and crashed into the mountain range. Everyone on board was killed on impact. Of course, the tragedy wouldn’t have occurred if the children had not played with the control. But it may have also been prevented had the pilots let autopilot correct the mistake instead of trying to do it manually.
Afterward, officials found the wreckage on the remote hillside in the Kuznetsk Alatau mountains. They found the flight data recorders on the second day of examining the crash. Families of the Russian victims brought flowers to the crash site to pay their respects. Meanwhile, families of the victims from China and Taiwan scattered pieces of paper with messages for their loved ones around the area.
The Aeroflot airline originally denied that children were in the cockpit during the crash. But they had to renounce this claim when a Moscow-based magazine published the transcript of the black box tape from the plane. The event’s horrific tragedy became featured in the Canadian TV series Mayday: Air Disaster 2005 episode called “Kid in the Cockpit.” The show delves into real-life air crashes and disasters. A 2007 episode special called “Who’s Flying the Plane?” also talks about Aeroflot Flight 593.
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- “75 Dead in a Crash of a Russian Airbus On Hong Kong Run.” The New York Times. The Associated Press. March 23, 1994
- “Tape Reveals Kids Got Flying Lesson Before Crash.” The Seattle Times. September 28, 1994