Poland blames Russia for presidential plane crash
Moscow: Poland Friday released a final report on the possible causes of the Tu-154 plane crash that killed then Polish president Lech Kaczynski last year. It blamed both the Polish flight crew and Russian air traffic controllers.
The report said the accident may have been caused by a combination of factors, including erroneous commands given by a Russian traffic controller and inadequate training of the Polish crew, in particular the fact that the pilot was too late in aborting the first attempt to land and go around for a second approach.
On April 10, 2010, the Polish president's plane crashed in heavy fog as it attempted to land at an airfield near the western Russian city of Smolensk.
The delegation was flying to Smolensk to mark the 70th anniversary of the 1940 Katyn massacre of thousands of Polish officers by Soviet secret police. Then Polish President Lech Kaczynski, his wife and a host of other top officials on board were killed.
Russia-based Interstate Aviation Committee put the blame for the crash on the Polish crew. Polish politicians denounced the report, saying it was a cover-up.
Friday's report said the Smolensk airport did not ensure the safety of the flight, "including due to poor visibility".
The Polish commission stated the Smolensk air traffic controller gave incorrect commands to the crew of the president's Tu-154.
"There was no chance of an automatic go-around for a second approach. The aircraft was working properly until the moment it collided with the ground," the report said.
The commission said the Russian controller responsible for the air traffic zone had little experience.
"This was only the second flight he had handled in a year and he gave the crew erroneous instructions," commission experts said at a press conference in Warsaw Friday.
The report also said the aircraft's Terrain Warning Approach System (TAWS), which should have warned the crew that they were in danger of impacting the ground, was not ready for the flight.
"The TAWS system was not properly configured. It should have been set up and activated by the co-pilot," the experts said.
The report said Polish Air Force chief Gen. Andrzej Blasik, who was on board, put
no pressure on the crew to land at Smolensk.
"The Polish commission has found no evidence that the Air Force commander put any pressure on the crew to land the plane," the report said.
The Russian report said Blasik's mere presence in the cockpit put huge pressure on the pilots and was a factor in them attempting to land despite the bad weather conditions.
It also suggested Blasik was under the influence of alcohol at the time.