Interstate Aviation Committee, Polish commission agree on presidential plane causes

MOSCOW, August 2 (Itar-Tass) —— The Interstate Aviation Committee and the Polish governmental ad hoc commission have the same opinion about the main cause of the crash of the Tupolev Tu-154 jetliner of Polish President Lech Kaczynski, head of the technical commission of the Interstate Aviation Committee Alexei Morozov said on Tuesday.

The Tupolev Ti-154 was carrying a governmental delegation to attend remembrance events in Katyn. The crash killed all the 96 people aboard, including the president, his spouse, a number of government and parliament members and military commanders.

“Both reports agree that the main cause of the crash was the excessive descent. The sides also agree on many supplementary factors, such as the training of the crew, pre-flight work, organization of the flight and weather support,” Morozov said.

In his opinion, the differences are rooted in “the [Polish] unwillingness to accept that even an international flight must comply with the rules laid down in the Aeronautical Information Publication (AIP).” Poland may have some other reasons apart from this unwillingness, Morozov admitted.

The technical commission of the International Aviation Committee doubts the independence of the Polish investigative commission led by Interior Minister Jerzy Miller.

“The Interstate Aviation Committee is an independent organization registered at the ICAO. Meanwhile, the Miller commission is a departmental body. Can we say it is fully independent? You must make your own conclusions,” he said, adding that some of the commission experts were simultaneously working in the commission of the Polish Prosecutor General’s Office.

“That is impermissible from the point of view of an independent technical investigation,” Morozov said.

He noted that it was not planned to make a joint report of the Interstate Aviation Committee and the Polish commission. The Miller report is an internal document of Poland, Morozov said.

“The direct cause of the air crash was the crew’s decision not to go to an alternative airport despite the repeated warnings of poor visibility in the landing zone,” he noted.

The absence of appropriate reaction to terrain awareness and warning system (TAWS) warnings was another cause of the crash, he said.

Infrastructural shortcomings of the Smolensk Severny Airport could not have caused the crash, Morozov said.

“The theory of the alleged inoperativeness of the landing control radar is unfounded. The commission did not expose any faults in the airport operation. Infrastructural shortcomings, including those of airport lights, were not a cause of the crash,” he said.

A laboratory plane flew over the airport zone shortly after the air crash without any changes being made in the terrain and airport equipment, he said. “The flight confirmed that the airport systems were operating normally. It is unclear to us why the Polish report claims the inoperativeness of the landing control system,” he said.

“The only shortcoming is the approach indication on the display of the landing zone supervisor’s radar. This shortcoming was given a detailed description in our final report [posted on January 12], and I would rather not go into technical details now,” he said.

There was no pressure on air traffic controllers of the Smolensk Severny Airport at the time the Polish presidential plane was preparing to land, Morozov said.

The air base deputy commander put no pressure on flight supervisors either, he said. “We made an independent analysis of objective data, including recordings of conversations. There was no pressure on flight supervisors,” he said.

Morozov said that it was a duty of the air base deputy commander to stay at the tower.

He also said that the crew of the presidential plane made erroneous decisions.

The Polish governmental commission said earlier that the decisions were correct but the crew failed to implement them. “The crew made erroneous and inadequate decisions, which was why the pilots could not implement them,” Morozov said.

The crew was under psychological pressure and had the sole purpose of landing at any cost until the very moment the jet hit the ground, Morozov said.

The presence of Polish Air Force Commander Andrzej Blasik in the cockpit of the presidential plane put psychological pressure on the crew, he said.

He said Blasik came to the cockpit after the pilots and the head of the presidential protocol department had discussed the impossibility of landing in Smolensk under existent weather patterns.

Amid the lack of coordination, the crew “was controlling the flight and supplying information about the flight altitude,” he said.

“In the opinion of experts, the situation should be described as psychological pressure on the crew,” Morozov added.

The Polish governmental ad hoc commission led by Interior Minister Jerzy Miller posted the crash report on July 29. The report will help avoid similar accidents in the future, Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said on that day.

“A detailed description of the causes of this tragedy is of paramount importance. The commission excluded the theories of an attack, an influence from third persons and pressure on pilots. Thanks to this report we can avoid similar accidents in the future,” he said.

“The commission ended its deliberations after several months of hard work. It is now on standby. If new significant facts emerge, I will have a right and a duty to resume the operation of this commission,” Tusk said. He noted that the appearance of new facts was unlikely. “The commission is confident it has sufficient knowledge [of the air crash] to present its final conclusions,” he remarked. “There are no political aspects in this report,” Tusk said.

The Polish commission said that the pilots of the presidential jetliner had insufficient skills to work under complex weather conditions.

“The pilots were not suicides. The crew attempted the landing being aware of the complex weather patterns, and that decision was not a mistake. However, the crew used a wrong altimeter. The crew commander thought they were flying at the altitude of 100 meters, but the actual altitude was 50 meters. He wanted to take another circle in the automatic control mode,” Miller said.

“All the decisions were correct, but the pilots were not skilled enough to operate in such bad weather. They lacked training, including that in a trainer. Only a trainer can help acquire skills for rescuing passengers and oneself,” he said.

Miller also declared the absence of interaction between the pilots and the airport tower.

The jetliner was perfectly in order before it hit the tree, Miller said.

Another commission member said that the level of the pilot’s skills endangered the flight safety. “The commission learned that the 36th special regiment, which transports high-ranking officials, made a number of violations in the preparations for this flight. The pilots were trained hastily. There were no training flights, and only the engineer was qualified enough. The crew was 30 minutes late to the airport on April 10, which deteriorated the quality of preparations for the flight,” he said.

“The changed configuration of the plane from 90 to 100 seats was not coordinated with the manufacturer but had no effect on the air crash,” the commission member said.

“The regiment refused from services of a Russian-speaking person, and the Russian side accepted the refusal although it did not comply with the rules of flights in the Russian airspace,” he said. “The insufficient knowledge of the Russian language by the pilot caused errors in decision making.”

The governmental commission also said that Russia borne a part of the culpability.

Polish experts said that the tower was able to see that the plane was above the glide path and shifted left from the runway but the tower told the crew that they were moving right. “Either the tower equipment was out of order or the air traffic controller was not trained well enough. The investigation showed that the equipment was working normally,” another commission member said.

The commission said that Russia was responsible for the readiness of the non-functioning airport Smolensk Severny, as it said on April 5 it was ready to receive the special flight.

According to the commission, the Polish Air Force commander, who was staying in the cockpit at the crash moment, was a passive observer. There are no indications that he was interfering in the work of the pilots, the commission said.

The place of the landing is chosen by the person in whose interest the flight is made, not the crew commander, Miller said.

The main passenger of the Tu-154 was Polish President Lech Kaczynski who planned to attend the Katyn remembrance event. The head of the Polish Foreign Ministry’s diplomatic protocol department told the crew several minutes before the crash that the president had not decided what to do.

The commission admitted that the pilots made an independent decision to land and there was no pressure on the crew.

The Polish opposition criticized the report and said that it contained fake information and no evidence.


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