Pilots ignored plane's warning systems attempting to land


THE PILOTS of a Polish jet that crashed in April killing president Lech Kaczynski and 95 others ignored the plane’s warning systems while attempting to land at fog-bound Smolensk airport in Russia, according to cockpit voice recordings released yesterday.

But the transcript may only deepen questions about the role of Mr Kaczynski in the crash, as it shows a diplomatic aide told the chief pilot – who had warned that it might be too foggy to land – that he was waiting for the president to decide what they should do next.

As the pilots of the Tupolev Tu-154 guided it in through thick fog and low cloud towards Smolensk in western Russia, its automated alert system warned “terrain ahead” and “pull up, pull up” several times but the crew failed to gain height or change course.

Seconds before the black boxes stopped recording, the plane is heard clipping trees in the forest near the airstrip, people in the cockpit scream and swear in Polish and the air traffic controller urges them to go around for a second attempt at landing.

The crash claimed the lives of the president and his wife, and many of the most prominent figures in Poland’s political, financial and military spheres, as they flew to Russia for a ceremony marking 70 years since Soviet forces massacred more than 20,000 Polish officers at Katyn, near Smolensk.

Some 15 minutes before the crash, the chief pilot says: “At the moment, in these conditions, we will not be able to land . . .We can try to approach, and make one pass, but most likely it won’t work out. If . . . [words indecipherable] happens, what should we do? We haven’t got enough fuel for that . . . [indecipherable].” At that point Mariusz Kazana, Poland’s chief of diplomatic protocol, tells the pilot: “In that case we have a problem.” Four minutes later, Mr Kazana is heard in the cockpit saying: “We don’t have a decision yet from the president about what to do.” Just three minutes before the plane plunges into the forest, an unidentified voice is heard to say: “He will be annoyed if . . . [indecipherable].” Two minutes before the crash, Polish air force commander General Andrzej Blasik is heard in the cockpit, but does not put obvious verbal pressure on the pilots to land. Everyone on board died in the April 10th accident.