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Smolensk report blames both Russian and Polish sides for disaster

PR dla Zagranicy
Peter Gentle 29.07.2011 12:05
Interior Minister Jerzy Miller presented the long-awaited findings of Poland’s investigation into the 10 April Smolensk air disaster, Friday morning, pointing the blame at both Russian and Polish preparations for the doomed TU-154 flight which killed President Kaczynski and many of Poland’s political elite and military top brass.

Minister Miller presents findings of Smolensk report; photo - PAP Pawel Supernak

Poor cooperation between crew members, inadequate knowledge of the landing area and poor supervision and training were all factors that led to the disaster on 10 April last year, said Interior Minister Jerzy Milller this morning.

According to the long-awaited report, factors which led up to the air crash on a foggy morning in western Russia included:

- inappropriate cooperation between crew members caused an excessive workload for the commander of the aircraft in the last phase of flight;
- inadequate preparation by flight crew before take off;
- crew members insufficient knowledge of aircraft systems and their limitations;
- failure of monitoring activities by crew members and a lack of reaction to mistakes;
- incorrect selection of crew to carry out scheduled tasks.

The document also says that weather reports from the Smolensk air field were not available to pilots before take off.

Although the appalling weather conditions were of paramount importance – as had been stressed since the immediate aftermath of the crash – several factors contributed to the crash.

Russian error

Errors by Russian staff at the control towers in Smolensk were also cited. It was also confirmed that only one member of the Polish flight crew spoke passable Russian.

The existence of explosives on board the doomed airplane - as had been speculated in some press reports – was categorically ruled out by the Polish investigators.

Minister Miller said that no pressure was put on to the pilots to land from the Polish side, as had also been speculated.

The investigators also insisted that it was not because a tree was too high that the plane crashed, but rather that the craft should not have been flying at the height it was at, at the time of collision.

“The aircraft was fully operational until the collision with a tree, resulting in the destruction of the left wing. No one intervened in the operation of the flight - whether by means of explosives, chemical or toxic substances. Also, there was no pressure exerted on the crew to land,” said Miller.

Miller also said that commands coming from air traffic control misled the pilots.

“The calming commands of the controller: 'you're on course, you're on path,'” were faulty," the minister said.

As Minister Miller delivered the conclusions of the report - which has taken over one year to complete and published six months after the Russians released their findings – the document was simultaneously published in Russian and English.

The report was written by 34 members of the investigating committee, which included specialist lawyers in international aviation law, active airline pilots and experts in air transport safety.

The Polish government says that their findings offer a more rounded picture of the events which led up to the tragedy than the Russian Interstate Aviation Committee’s (MAK) report, which Prime Minister Donald Tusk called “incomplete’. (pg/nh)

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