Poland crash recording says pilots ignored danger warnings

2nd June 2010, Comments 0 comments

A transcript released Tuesday from the Polish jet which crashed in Russia killing President Lech Kaczynski appears to confirm reports that the pilots neglected the aircraft's automatic danger alert.

Automatic "Pull up, Pull up" warnings are repeated several times in the last 20 seconds before the April 10 crash, but the pilots of the Russian-made Tupolev Tu-154 appear not to have reacted to the command.

Poland published a transcript of a black box recording recovered from the doomed government jet on which all 96 passengers perished.

The transcript, documenting the last 40 minutes of the doomed flight, in both Russian and Polish, was published on the Polish interior ministry website (http://www.mswia.gov.pl/).

Sixteen minutes before the crash, Russian air traffic controllers are quoted as having said weather conditions at the airport in Smolensk, western Russia, 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."

Ten minutes later Mariusz Kazana, diplomatic protocol chief with Poland's foreign ministry who was in the cockpit told the pilots: "The president hasn't decided yet what we will do."

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.

Beginning a minute prior to the crash the aircraft's automatic TAWS danger alert warns pilots of "Terrain ahead" and "Pull up, Pull up" but despite this pilots appear to continue their descent.

Fifty meters from the ground, air traffic controlers are quoted as saying "horizon 101", signalling the completion of landing procedures.

The transcript says the last seconds of the recording indicate the noise of the plane hitting a tree and the Polish pilots cursing.

All passengers on the jet including Kaczynski, his wife and scores of senior Polish officials were killed in the crash in heavy fog outside of Smolensk.

The delegation was headed to the nearby Katyn forest for ceremonies marking the 70th anniversary of a World War II massacre of thousands of Polish officers by the Soviet secret police.

The April 10 crash sparked a week of national mourning in Poland and an global out-pouring of sympathy as well as a snap June 20 presidential election in which the president's identical twin Jaroslaw Kaczynski is running for office.

However, opinion polls give the conservative parliamentary opposition chief no real chance of victory against his liberal rival, acting president Bronislaw Komorowski who is running for Poland's governing Civic Platform.

On Tuesday Jaroslaw Kaczynski said he wanted Russia to hand over the original recorders from the crashed jet.

Kaczynski also reiterated his wish that Poland take over the crash investigation from Russia, a move which Prime Minister Donald Tusk has refused.

Russia on Monday gave Poland complete recordings of the black boxes recovered from the wreckage.

Almost seven weeks after the accident, investigators have still not offered concrete conclusions about its cause, although they have ruled out terrorism, technical failure or an explosion.

© 2010 AFP

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