Russians often fly the Tu-95 for long distances, in some cases reaching the California coast.

What would happen if they had an engine failure or another emergency Considering the aircraft's age, an emergency is not a very remote possibility.

  • Would the Tu-95 land in California?
  • Would it rather try to come back home on 3 engines?
  • $\begingroup$ I don't get the question: are you asking what happen if you have an emergency? Why would it be different than with any other aircraft? $\endgroup$ Jul 24, 2015 at 7:59
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    $\begingroup$ @GianniAlessandro: It would be different for political reasons. And because the reasons are political, it does not belong here. $\endgroup$
    – Jan Hudec
    Jul 24, 2015 at 8:24
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    $\begingroup$ See this question: replace "North Korea" with "California" and "airliner" with "Tu-95" and the basic points will be the same. Although as others have posted, if one engine fails in a four-engine aircraft, that isn't necessarily a full-on emergency requiring an immediate landing. $\endgroup$
    – Pondlife
    Jul 24, 2015 at 13:50
  • $\begingroup$ I changed the question back to what I believe the OP was thinking about according to the early revisions... $\endgroup$ Jul 24, 2015 at 14:33
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    $\begingroup$ The answers to this question would be similar to the one about an emergency landing in North Korea. The big difference would be that the plane is Russian military property instead of a corporate-owned passenger jet, and you're dealing with the American government instead of the North Koreans, so the crew of the aircraft are much more likely to make it back home (whether or not the U.S. keeps the plane depends on U.S.-Russian relations at the time). $\endgroup$
    – KeithS
    Jul 24, 2015 at 15:21

2 Answers 2


Losing an engine on a 4-engined aircraft is not overly dramatic. In fact the P3 Orion actually intentionally shuts off one engine in flight to conserve fuel- it's more efficient to run three of them at higher power setting.

I doubt that they would put their aircraft in a position that they could not withstand an engine failure. From Kamchatka to California is it around 6000km max one-way; The TU-95 has a range of 15,000km.

As for potential political mess, you can see what happened when a Chinese J-11 Fighter collided mid-air with a US Navy P3 Orion back in 2001 in what is known as the Hainan Island Incident.

A British Airways 747 lost one engine out of Los Angeles a few years ago, and almost made it all the way to London, but diverted to Manchester (although that event did cause a lot of controversy).

  • $\begingroup$ I'm not sure the 747 is as relevant, though - I think the point of the question is "The Tu-95 doesn't have a flight plan to fly to the US, would it be allowed to enter". You answer regarding an engine failure and (likely correctly) point out that it could just turn round and return to base: but not what would happen in another emergency where it couldn't easily return (ie a return would be risky) $\endgroup$
    – Jon Story
    Jul 24, 2015 at 13:39
  • $\begingroup$ @JonStory Perhaps the crew would prefer to try for Canada if at all possible - but yes, an engine failure would probably not be enough to force an emergency landing. An engine on fire, perhaps? $\endgroup$
    Jul 24, 2015 at 13:54
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    $\begingroup$ I imagine that would be a cause for concern. I think the point is that in an emergency America would probably, in theory, allow the Tu-95 to land (escorted) at a USAF base... I assume, anyway. That's the question, IMO $\endgroup$
    – Jon Story
    Jul 24, 2015 at 14:33
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    $\begingroup$ Two parts here: what would the CREW want to do (land in US, Canada, go back to Russia, etc), and what would the US let them do. The Russians probably have guidance on how bad an emergency has to be before you do something drastic like landing in the US; it'd be speculation to fill in those blanks. For the US, if the aircraft is in distress, yes they'd let them land rather than force them to ditch. As mentioned, what happens to the aircraft depends on lots of political factors. But, SALIENT POINT FOR AVIATION.SE: yes, they'd be allowed to land. NOT an "off-topic" question at all! $\endgroup$
    – Ralph J
    Jul 24, 2015 at 22:11
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    $\begingroup$ The US would love to have the Tu-95 land here. It's basically a free copy of the plane for US intelligence to examine. $\endgroup$
    – cpast
    Jul 30, 2015 at 14:46

To answer the more general case of what happens if a military plane has an unrecoverable emergency near the airspace of an unfriendly nation. The crews has a number of choices:

  1. Declare an emergency and land in the unfriendly nation. The unfriendly nation is obliged (morally and under international law) to allow them to land. However the plane and its crew then become interned, which is a bit like being a prisoner of war, without the war. What happens then is up to the interning nation, and depends on the state of relations with the aircraft owner. The plane may be returned after some diplomatic maneuvering, possibly following a detailed technical examination. Or it may not. The crew may be returned, again possibly after some sort of questioning. Or they may not. During the Cold War, US pilots downed in Russia were sometimes held prisoner for years, and interrogated extensively (to put it mildly).
  2. Do their best to make it home or to a friendly base, even if such a hope seems doomed. This is likely the orders of a plane with highly sensitive technology, or anything else the nation really doesn't want other nations to get their hands on.
  3. Abandon the plane in such a way as to give the crew a reasonable chance of survival, but assuring the destruction of the plane, such as pointing it out to sea and ejecting.
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    $\begingroup$ Being shot down after flying over a foreign country without permission is a wholely different situation than having an emergency near a foreign country and landing there with permission. Or are you saying that American pilots during the Cold War had emergencies near the USSR, landed there with permission and were held prisoner for a long time? $\endgroup$ Aug 3, 2015 at 23:15
  • $\begingroup$ @DavidRicherby I cite those as examples at the extreme end of what might happen. $\endgroup$ Aug 4, 2015 at 2:22

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