Harrowing video shot from inside the Sheremetyevo airport terminal showed large flames and billowing black smoke coming from the plane as it landed. Later video showed a distinct trail of flames on the tarmac behind the plane, presumably from fuel that leaked out of the Sukhoi SSJ-100 regional jet as it slowed to a stop.
Elena Markovskaya, a spokeswoman for Russia's Investigative Committee, said early Monday that 41 people were killed. But Health Minister Veronika Skvortsova said later that 38 survived, implying the death toll was 40. Officials with Sheremetyevo airport said the aircraft had 73 passengers and five crew members on board.
Aeroflot confirmed on Twitter that flight 1492 was en route from Moscow to Murmansk in northwestern Russia when it was forced to turn back because of technical problems. The airline said in a brief statement Sunday the engines of the Sukhoi SSJ100 were burning after the aircraft landed, but the sequence of events before and after the fire started was not clear.
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has ordered the creation of a state commission to investigate the cause of the fire.
The SSJ100, also known as the Superjet, is a two-engine regional jet put into service in 2011 with considerable fanfare as a signal that Russia's troubled aerospace industry was on the rise.
The plane is largely used in Russia as a replacement for outdated Soviet-era aircraft, but also is used by airlines in other countries, including Armenia and Mexico. This is the second fatal accident involving the plane. In 2012, a demonstration flight in Indonesia struck a mountain, killing all 45 aboard.
"Flying in Russia is very dangerous," ABC News contributor Col. Stephen Ganyard explained. "This aircraft, which is made in Russia and flown almost exclusively in Russia, has a very poor safety record."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.