Monday, April 12, 2010

Pilot error blamed for Polish plane tragedy

Investigators appear to have ruled out a technical fault following a plane crash on Saturday which resulted in the death of Polish Polish President Lech Kaczynski, pointing possible blame at pilot error. All  96 passengers and crew aboard died when the Polish Air Force Tu-154 crashed just north of Smolensk, Russia [Wikipedia].

Along with Poland's President Lech Kaczyński, his wife Maria Kaczyńska and other officials were on board. The Chief of the General Staff of the Polish Army and senior military officers, the central bank governor, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and dignitaries in the government, vice-speakers and members of the upper and lower houses of the parliament and senior members of clergy of various denominations were also killed in the crash. They were on their way to mark the 70th anniversary of the Katyn massacre; the site of which is about 19 kilometres west of Smolensk.

According to reports the pilot attempted to land at Smolensk-North air base in heavy fog, ignoring the advice of the ground control to divert to a safer airport in Minsk or Moscow. On the final approach the plane struck an NDB antenna it was homing on through the fog, failed to regain control and fell in the trees 1.5 kilometres from the airfield, breaking into pieces across the wooded area.

On Monday the Russian Health Ministry said forensic tests on the victims of the crash had been completed. "The head of the ministry Tatiana Golikova met [Polish] Health Minister Ewa Kopacz and pronounced all forensic tests to be complete," a statement said. Most of the bodies of the victims of the crash have already been removed from the wreckage and sent to Moscow but Russian and Polish investigators will continue to search for remains on Monday. Meanwhile the President's body has been identified and flown to Warsaw where it will lie in state for several days until the burial.

Investigators are now studying black box recordings in an attempt to find out why the pilot did not divert to another airport. Speaking at a meeting with the Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin, who is in charge of the investigation, Russia's chief investigator Alexander Bastrykin, said, "The recordings that we have confirm that there were no technical problems with the plane. The pilot was informed about complex weather conditions but nevertheless made a decision to land."

The news of the tragedy has shocked Poland bringing hundreds of thousands onto the streets of Warsaw to pay their respects. At midday on Sunday air-raid sirens wailed in Warsaw and across the country church bells tolled as Poles observed two minutes of silence, a precursor to a week of official mourning. But even while Poland mourns, conspiracy theories and accusations are beginning to emerge. Fyodor Lukyanov, a political analyst and editor of the journal Russia in World Affairs, said, "Kaczynski was, to put it lightly, not a friend of Russia. Nonetheless, he is being treated with the utmost respect by the Russian leadership. This crash, however, is symbolically very gloomy ... and may reinforce in Poland the notion that everything associated with Russia is awful and bad...Even if it is confirmed that pilot error caused the crash, there will inevitably be those who say it was the KGB that killed Kaczynski."

However, Witold Waszczykowski, deputy head of Poland's National Security Bureau, said, "We did not expect this gentle, kind approach, this personal involvement from Putin, naturally it will have a positive impact on the relationship between our countries. I can imagine a high-ranking Russian delegation from Moscow coming to Kaczynski's funeral." 

There have also been questions asked as to why the President and his entourage were travelling on such an old plane. Russia has withdrawn its Tu-154 fleet, the workhorse of Eastern Bloc civil aviation in the 1970s and 80s. The planes are expensive on fuel and do not meet international noise restrictions. Its flight safety record is also poor with at least 66 crashes involving the planes in the last four decades.

In Poland, people were still struggling to come to terms with an accident described by Donald Tusk, the nation's prime minister, as the worst tragedy to befall the nation since the end of the Second World War. The fact the President was to attend a memorial to those who died in World War II at the Katyn massacre, adds yet another twisted irony to the tragedy [BBC / Sky News / CNN].
tvnewswatch, Beijing, China

1 comment:

WWII Airplanes said...

Hey Dude,
Really your thought will be a great mainstream for those who are looking for WWII Airplanes. As it sounds very good though i would like to light it at the wall of my facebook.

WWII Aviation