Forty years ago, on February 7, 1981, the Tu-104 plane of the commander of the Pacific Fleet (Pacific Fleet) of the USSR crashed during takeoff from the military airfield near Leningrad. The crash killed 16 admirals and generals on board, the whole leadership of the fleet. The tragedy came as a huge shock for the Soviet Pacific Fleet, because the fleet did not lose so many admirals even during the Second World War. The Ministry of Defense of the USSR suggested that the crash occurred as a result of subversive activities, so the department was expecting aggression on the eastern coast of the USSR. In fact, everything turned out to be much more prosaic.
Cross in the sky, fireball on the ground
On that fateful day, the plane of the Pacific Fleet commander flew for only eight seconds. Immediately after takeoff, the airliner banked backwards and crashed on the ground half a kilometer from the site of take-off. The plane banked so significantly that eyewitnesses at the airfield described the position of the Tu-104 in the air as a “cross in the sky.”A massive fire started right after the crash and the explosion. All 50 people on board – 44 passengers and 6 crew members – were killed. Eyewitnesses who tried to get to the accident site said that the tail of the plane broke off from the fuselage, and there was a huge funnel with burning kerosene underneath it. The entire plane was on fire.On board the crashed aircraft there were 15 admirals and generals, 12 captains of the first rank and colonels, and the commander of the Pacific Fleet, Emil Spiridonov. The Tu-104 of the Commander of the Pacific Fleet was returning from staff exercises, in which the leadership of all the fleets of the Soviet Union participated. Sergei Gorshkov, the Commander of the Soviet Navy, then said that the Pacific Fleet under the leadership of Emil Spiridonov was the best fleet during the exercises. It is worthy of note that during the Second World War, the entire Soviet fleet lost four admirals, while six others died by natural causes or for reasons unrelated to military operations. The officials, who were killed in the plane crash near Leningrad, had unique experience. In the first post-war years, the Soviet government relied on the accelerated development and upgrade of the navy – and it was the Pacific Fleet that was used to test new types of weapons.Following the disaster, the Pacific Fleet was put on full alert – the Ministry of Defense suspected sabotage. Some time later, special services and all kinds of commissions concluded that foreign saboteurs simply could not access the plane at such a guarded facility as the Pushkin military airfield. However, the version of sabotage was not discarded, and investigators continued working on it. It turned out that Rudolf Golosov, the chief of staff of the Pacific Fleet and the first candidate for length of service to replace Spiridonov, refused to fly the Tu-104 at the last moment. It was believed that Golosov was the most likely candidate to replace the Commander-in-Chief of the USSR Navy, Sergei Gorshkov.
Golosov had an alibi: on the day of the disaster at the Pushkin airfield, another airplane was to fly to the North. Golosov was born in those places and had relatives there, including his daughter.