Gold is a precious metal which many tend to hoard in smaller or larger quantities to sometimes use as a bartering tool in case the world’s economic situation gets to a stage where only gold counts. So, why try and pave an aircraft runway with it, as was the case recently in the far eastern part of Russia.
Carry 10 tons and drop 3.4 tons
It’s no joke, but that’s exactly what happened on March 15th.
A Nimbus Airlines Antonov AN-12 freighter, with registration number RA-11130, was operating on behalf of the Eastern Siberian-based Chukotka Mining Company from Chukotka to Krasnoyarsk and made a normal fuel stop in Yakutsk.
What many did not know at the time was that the aircraft was carrying almost ten tonnes of gold bars, platinum and diamonds which had been mined in the Chukotka region.
Just after lift-off at Yakutsk, it seems that there was a major cargo shift on the cargo deck and the rear hatch of the AN-12 broke away and part of the very valuable load of gold, platinum and diamonds rained own onto the runway. The aircraft continued its climb-out and the pilots decided to divert to Magan Airport which is situated 6 nautical miles from Yakutsk. The aircraft landed safely there.
Yakutsk runway paved with gold
Those on the ground at Yakutsk could not believe what they saw. The runway was literally paved with gold bars which had come raining down Security officials and police tried to quickly cordon off the scene in order to gather the precious load back together. It is reported that the value of the cargo which “came free“ is around US$368 million and weighed 3.4 tons. The remaining 6.5 tonnes luckily managed to stay on board.
A major cargo shift is probably the most plausible reason for the incident. This could have been caused by improper loading or not enough tie-down for the cargo which resulted in a shift aft during take-off, putting too much pressure on the rear hatch area and resulting in its separation.
Luckily, the aircraft and crew got away with a nasty shock. The guys on the ground at Yakutsk will not forget the experience either and can tell their children how their runway was paved with gold - even though only for a short time.
John Mc Donagh