A Russian passenger airplane has been engulfed in flames at Sheremetyevo Airport, claiming the lives of at least 41 passengers.

Flight SU 1492, operated by Russian carrier Aeroflot, was flying with 73 passengers and five crew members on board from Moscow to Murmansk, a Russian city in the Arctic Circle.

The Sukhoi Superjet-100 plane was struck by lightning after it took off for Murmansk, with the pilot deciding to return to the airport.

However, Russia’s national carrier said that it returned due to technical reasons.

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While landing, the aircraft skidded down the runway and its rear portion caught fire, emitting thick and black smoke.

“The plane failed to land in the first attempt, and in the second it hit landing gear and its nose on the runway and started burning.”

Upon stopping, passengers used emergency slides from the aircraft’s two forward doors.

Russia’s Investigative Committee spokeswoman Elena Markovskaya told CNN that 37 people survived, five of whom are currently being treated in hospital.

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An American citizen was killed in the crash, news agency Interfax reported.

An unnamed source told the news agency: “The plane sent out a distress signal after taking off, started emergency landing procedures, failed to land in the first attempt, and in the second it hit landing gear and its nose on the runway and started burning.”

The narrow-bodied, dual-class cabin aircraft entered service in mid-2011 and is capable of carrying more than 100 passengers.

Over 100 of the planes are in operation around the world.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered an investigation into the incident.