Warsaw : Poland has published cockpit
conversations of the final minutes before the April plane
crash that killed President Lech Kaczynski, revealing that
pilots decided to land in heavy fog despite warnings from air
traffic controllers about poor visibility.
A transcript of the last 39 minutes of the flight also
shows that a Foreign Ministry official, Mariusz Kazana,
entered the cockpit and made remarks indicating that the
president was involved in deciding whether or not to make the
There have been suspicions in Poland that Kaczynski might
have pressured the pilot and co-pilot to risk a dangerous
landing to keep from being late to a memorial ceremony for
Poles massacred by the Soviet Union 70 years ago.
The black boxes, which contain some indecipherable
information, do not settle that matter definitively, but they
do suggest that the pilots might have been distracted by the
presence in the cockpit of non-crew members.
According to the transcript published yesterday, the
dangers became clear about 25 minutes before landing, when an
air traffic official told the Polish crew: "The conditions for
landing do not exist."
Later, Kazana, the chief of diplomatic protocol, entered
the cockpit and Capt Arkadiusz Protasiuk told him: "Sir, the
fog is increasing. At the moment, under these conditions that
we have now, we will not manage to land."
Kazana is quoted as answering: "Well, then we have a
"We can hover around for half an hour and then fly off to
a backup" airport, the captain replies, later naming Minsk and
Vitebsk, two cities in Belarus, as backup options. The crew
was also told by the Russian control tower that a Russian
Ilyushin plane had abandoned two landing attempts and had
flown to another airport.
It`s not clear if Kazana left the cockpit and then
returned, but a few minutes later he says: "There isn`t a
decision from the president yet about what to do next."
Polish and Russian investigators have not yet drawn final
conclusions about what caused the crash that killed Kaczynski
and 95 others, many of them top civilian and military leaders,
but evidence has so far pointed to pilot error and bad weather
conditions, and the black box recordings seem to further
support that theory.
The government of Prime Minister Donald Tusk was eager to
publish the report in order to quell suspicions about the
cause of the crash and conspiracy theories that have surfaced
in the tabloids. Some Polish tabloids have suggested that
Russia has something to hide, even though Polish officials
have repeatedly praised how Russians have responded and helped
investigate the tragedy.