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Wed, Jun 02, 2010

Polish Pilots Cautioned Against Landing Attempt In Smolensk

96, Including Polish President, Were Killed In The Accident

A transcript from the cockpit voice recorder carried by the TU-154 which crashed in heavy fog in Western Russia in April shows that the pilots were warned by Russian aviation authorities to not attempt the landing at Smolensk. The resulting crash killed Polish President Lech Kaczynski, his wife, and 94 others.

The transcript included the final 39 minutes of the flight. It was published by Polish officials Tuesday. The Associated Press reports that the government of Prime Minister Donald Tusk was anxious to publish the report in part to quash rumors and conspiracy theories that have been reported by what he described as "tabloids."

The transcript shows that Russian air traffic controllers advised the pilots of the plane not to land, and it also recorded the terrain avoidance equipment repeating "pull up, pull up." The aircraft clipped a tree, which caused it to flip over and crash.

The recordings do not give a definitive answer to questions about who might have been in the cockpit, and whether the pilots were under pressure to attempt the landing. The delegation was running late to a ceremony in Smolensk, and according to the transcript, President Kaczynski's chief of diplomatic protocol Mariusz Kanzana did visit the cockpit about 15 minutes before the landing attempt. When he was told about the poor weather and the possibility of not being able to land, he reportedly says "well, then, we have a problem."

The pilots also reportedly talked with the pilots of a plane carrying Polish journalists which had landed successfully earlier. They talked about the thick fog and deteriorating weather, but also said the presidential plane could try to land. The New York Times reports that the transcript shows that the pilot, Arkadiusz Protasiuk, was told by Russian controllers “There are no conditions for landing.” “We’ll make an attempt," Protasiuk responded,  "but if the weather isn’t good, we’ll leave for a second round.” A few minutes later, controllers told the pilot to climb from his altitude of 325 feet. “If we fail to land, we are reascending on autopilot,” he responded.

No official cause for the accident has been determined by Russian and Polish aviation officials investigating the crash.

FMI: http://www.ulc.gov.pl/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=419&Itemid=421



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