Polish plane 'warned not to land in fog': transcripts

19th January 2011, Comments 0 comments

Russia on Wednesday published transcripts showing air traffic control warned the Polish plane carrying president Lech Kaczynski not to land in heavy fog before it crashed killing all on board.

Kaczynski died with 95 others when his Russian-made jet crashed on April 10, 2010 as it attempted to land in fog near the city of Smolensk in northwestern Russia.

The Russian Interstate Aviation Committee (MAK) last week issued a final report in which it blamed errors by the Polish crew and their decision to land in bad weather, which it said was under pressure from top officials on board. Poland has hotly disputed the findings and accuses Russian air traffic controllers of failing to notify the Polish plane's crew that they were well off course while landing.

The dramatic and expletive-ridden transcripts published on MAK's website show Russian air traffic controllers were initially confused about the Polish jet's plans but warned it against landing in fog.

They cover telephone and radio communication between Russian controllers and the crew of the Polish plane.

A controller at the Smolensk airport tells central air traffic control that the Polish plane is heading their way but has not checked with the airport.

"I have information that the Polish Tu-154 is flying to us. Shit. They are not requesting clearance from us, we need to tell them we are covered-up," the controller said by telephone, adding that the fog had not been forecast.

Russian controllers do not speak to the Poles until more than 40 minutes later, however, when they say visibility is only 400 metres and "we do not have the conditions to take you."

The Polish pilot replies that he will attempt a landing and abort it if the weather is too bad.

"Thanks, but if possible we will try to approach. If the weather is not good enough, we will execute a turn-around," he says in Russian.

Later a controller comments that it is not up to the Russian side whether the plane lands and makes an apparent reference to Kaczynski, saying that decision is made by "number one, he is there himself."

The controllers agree to tell the Polish pilot to abort the landing. "You tell him to turn-around, then it's him who took the decision, let him decide," one said.

The last message from the Polish plane says that it has switched its lights on, then the controllers lose contact, releasing a torrent of obscenities.

"It started going around, then it disappeared," one said.

© 2011 AFP

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