Experts decipher recordings in Polish president's air crash

14th July 2010, Comments 0 comments

Polish experts have deciphered previously unintelligible cockpit banter recorded before the April 10 crash in Russia of a Polish jet which killed president Lech Kaczynski, Poland's justice minister said Wednesday.

"Its very good news: we have succeeded in deciphering extracts that were incomprehensible until now," Justice Minister Krzysztof Kwiatkowski told reporters in Warsaw, but refused to provide further details.

He declined to confirm reports Wednesday by Poland's private TVN24 news channel that the plane's chief pilot said "if I don't land, they'll kill me."

On June 1, Poland published a transcript of a black box recording recovered from the doomed Polish government jet documenting the last 40 minutes of the flight. Parts of it were marked "unintelligible".

In the aftermath of the tragic crash, which killed president Kaczynski and 95 other senior Polish figures including the NATO state's top military brass, media speculation focused on whether the pilots had been pressured to land at the air strip in Smolensk, western Russia, despite thick fog.

According to the transcript, Polish air force commander General Andrzej Blasik was in the cockpit two minutes prior to the crash, but nothing suggests he pressured the pilots to land.

Sixteen minutes before the crash, Russian air traffic controllers said weather conditions at Smolensk would not permit the aircraft to land.

"There are no conditions for landing," controllers are quoted as saying.

"Thank you, if it's possible, we'll make an attempt, but if the weather won't be good we'll leave for a second round," the chief pilot, Arkadiusz Protasiuk, is quoted as saying.

A minute later, he said the landing would not be possible. "In this moment, under the actual conditions, we will not manage to land."

Later, pilots however proceeded to attempt to land the aircraft.

The doomed Polish delegation was en route to ceremonies in the nearby Katyn forest marking the 70th anniversary of a Soviet massacre of thousands of Polish officers during World War II.

© 2010 AFP

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