Polish President and entourage killed in plane crash

Ugg

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http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/11/world/europe/11poland.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

MOSCOW – A plane carrying the Polish president, Lech Kaczynski, and dozens of the country’s top political and military leaders crashed in a heavy fog in western Russia on Saturday morning, killing everyone aboard.

Television showed chunks of flaming fuselage scattered in a bare forest near Smolensk, where the president was arriving for a ceremony commemorating the murder of more than 20,000 Polish officers by the Red Army as it invaded Poland.

The governor of Smolensk region, Sergei Antufiyev, said the plane did not reach the runway but instead hit the treetops and broke apart. An official with the Russia’s Investigative Committee said possible causes were bad weather, mechanical failure and human error.

The crash came as a staggering blow to Poland, killing what may be a tenth of country’s top leadership in one fiery explosion. In the numb hours after the crash, leaders in Warsaw evoked the horror of the massacre at Katyn, which stood for decades as a symbol of Russian domination of Poland.

“It is a damned place,” former president Aleksander Kwasniewski told TVN24. “It sends shivers down my spine. First the flower of the Second Polish Republic is murdered in the forests around Smolensk, now the intellectual elite of the Third Polish Republic die in this tragic plane crash when approaching Smolensk airport.”
What a horrible tragedy made even more so considering they were traveling to Katyn. My heart goes out to Poland.
 

Queso

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Polish President and cabinet members killed in plane crash

Lech Kaczynski, Poland's arch-Catholic right-wing President, as well as other members of the ruling Law and Justice Party cabinet and military chiefs died this morning when the 20-year-old Tupolev 154 they were travelling in crashed on approach to Smolensk airport in Russia. The delegation were travelling to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Katyn massacre.

I have to say:- WTF were they thinking putting most of the country's important people together on a clapped out old airliner?!?

BBC News
 

Peterkro

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If there's any truth to reports coming out of Russia,why did the pilot not follow directions from air traffic control at Minsk to land there and instead try and land at a semi unused military base near Smolensk in bad conditions.Why the Chief of Staff and the President plus assorted Generals etc where on the same flight I don't know it doesn't show much in the way of foresight.


Russian officials said that the airport, 270 miles west of Moscow, had been closed because of thick fog. They advised the pilot to land at Moscow or Minsk instead, but he continued with the original flight plan – making three abortive attempts to land at Smolensk's Severny military airport.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/apr/10/polish-president-kaczynski-killed-crash

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smolensk_(air_base)


The plane crash that killed the homophobic Polish President Lech Kaczynski has also claimed the life of Izabela Jaruga-Nowacka, one of the most outspoken advocates for LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered) rights in Poland.

http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2010/04/10/gay-rights-advocating-former-polish-deputy-pm-among-dead-in-plane-crash/
 

IntheNet

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Oct 6, 2009
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Sympathies and prayers for Lech Kaczynsk and the family, other party members and their families and survivors; so sad at this time for the nation. The world mourns in such a tragedy for Poland...
 

barkomatic

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It is a terrible tragedy, but this is the very reason why most countries shouldn't put their entire leadership into one jet going to one place.

It would be like putting the President, the Vice President, the Supreme Court, the Cabinet, and the Fed Chairman all on one plane. Not smart.
 

Peterkro

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It is a terrible tragedy, but this is the very reason why most countries shouldn't put their entire leadership into one jet going to one place.

It would be like putting the President, the Vice President, the Supreme Court, the Cabinet, and the Fed Chairman all on one plane. Not smart.
It is indeed a tragedy for those involved although I fail to see why it is more so than any other plane crash.
 

Ugg

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Poland has done an amazing job economically since the communists lost power. Partly because they didn't overspend on non-necessary items and had a reasonably equitable sell off of state properties. Unfortunately, they should have replaced the plane that crashed, long ago. They also scrimped and saved by putting everyone on the same flight. Not exactly the most intelligent thing to do.

What's notable of course, is that this was a private ceremony in Katyn. Lech's comments about Katyn were highly inflammatory and he was NOT invited to the official ceremony last week.

Had Donald Tusk not been elected Prime Minister, the malevolent Kaczynski twins (Lech's twin brother was Prime Minister before Tusk) would have wreaked havoc upon Poland. Their obsession with the wrongdoings of the past and the need to "purify" Poland would have turned the country into an international pariah.

I'm sure we'll see many conspiracy theories pop up in the coming weeks simply because Lech and his brother were so controversial and confrontational. I hope Poland is able to recover from this as quickly as possible.
 

Peterkro

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Unfortunately, they should have replaced the plane that crashed, long ago.
I'm sure that there are much more knowledgeable people than me that have a view on this, but the Tupolev-154 appears to have a reasonable safety record and this particular plane has recently had a major overhaul. It's a bit early to be pondering causes but whether the plane and the airport were equipped for instrument only landings may be important. The plane is old and has been phased out of use with major airlines but many planes of similar age and design are still in every day use.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/8612915.stm
 

barkomatic

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Well it would depend on whether you thought leaders were less,more or the same value as other human beings.
They weren't more important as human beings but the positions they held and the responsibilities they had were more important than that of most people.
 

Peterkro

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It's now being reported that Smolensk military airport is only equipped with rudimentary navigational aids,taken with the previous incident when a pilot of this plane was forced against his judgement to land at Tiblisi it's beginning to point to a cock up with more than one cause. It appears the whole thing wasn't thought out very well.(it is only in occasional use)
 

Ugg

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I'm sure that there are much more knowledgeable people than me that have a view on this, but the Tupolev-154 appears to have a reasonable safety record and this particular plane has recently had a major overhaul. It's a bit early to be pondering causes but whether the plane and the airport were equipped for instrument only landings may be important. The plane is old and has been phased out of use with major airlines but many planes of similar age and design are still in every day use.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/8612915.stm
I'm no aircraft expert so will leave the Tupolev 154's worthiness up to others, but last September, neither planes were operative.

http://thenews.pl/national/?id=116052

National


Inoperative planes leave PM, President grounded
16.09.2009 17:50

PM Tusk will not be able to fly to Brussels and President Kaczynski to New York, on official airplanes as both are grounded for repairs.

The Chancellery of the President and Chancellery of Prime Minister have two Russian planes TU-154 at their disposal for foreign visits. One of the planes broke down recently after returning from Moscow. The other has been in repair for several months now.

A lack of airworthy planes has caused a serious problem for Poland‘s top politicians.

PM Donald Tusk was scheduled to fly to Brussels on Thursday and to the Netherlands on Saturday, while President Lech Kaczynski planned a journey to New York on Tuesday. Because of the failure of both state airplanes, Tusk will fly to Brussels on board a Yak-40, a small three-engine airliner, and Kaczynski will most probably take a scheduled flight.
A need for new aircrafts for Polish VIPs has been a recurrent headache.

In May, the Defence Minister Bogdan Klich assured that in the summer, political elites would have new comfortable planes available - but the economic crisis has thwarted that plan. (mg)
 

firestarter

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Firstly, let me echo what others have said about this... it's an extremely sad event and my thoughts are with the families of all those who lost their lives.


It's been interesting reading the comments of Poles writing on the BBC's web site. Some point out that:
- The president had a great distrust of Russia, and the motives of the Russian leadership
- He'd apparently sacked a pilot on a previous occasion for diverting his flight (I've searched, but can't find anything to back this story up).

additionally, reports point out that:
- The Russians had advised a diversion, and had diverted their own flight from this airport
- We know that the airport wasn't equipped for a landing of this nature in fog, that the pilot had already made three aborted attempts to land

Human error plays a part in many aircraft accidents. Most notably, a string of accidents in South Korea were attributed to an inability due to social conversion of civilian co-pilots to criticise or question military-trained pilots.

It would be terrible if some combination of events should lead in this case to the president being part-author of his own demise.
 

Peterkro

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- He'd apparently sacked a pilot on a previous occasion for diverting his flight (I've searched, but can't find anything to back this story up).

Back in 2008, when Georgia and Russia fought their brief war, Kaczynski was on his way to Tbilisi to support Georgian President, Mikheil Saakashvili, in what he saw as fight with the Kremlin's “new imperialism“.

Air traffic control told the pilot of Kaczynski’s plane to turn back because it was too dangerous to land in Tbilisi, but the president -- who also is commander in chief under Poland’s law -- ordered the pilot to land anyway.

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/polish-president-95-others-killed-in-russian-plane-crash/article1530087/

The sacking bit I could find no direct claim of although in the comments on this page someone mentions it, I guess that's just hearsay.
 

Queso

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Interesting. I wonder whether we'll get the full story from the investigation once the flight recorders and voice transcripts are analysed. There's already an air of sensitivity about it.
 

dmr727

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Dec 29, 2007
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In the U.S. (and I believe, in any ICAO member such as Poland or Russia), an airliner or charter/fractional aircraft isn't even allowed to attempt the approach if the weather is reported below minimums for the airport. If the airplane is being privately flown, it's permissible to 'go have a look', but there's good reason for the stricter regulations.

Executing a missed approach isn't necessarily dangerous, and flight crews constantly practice in the simulator, but it's not trivial to make such a huge change in momentum and configuration so close to the ground. Giving it a try a fourth time tells me the flight crew had some serious pressure to make that landing. <speculation>That kind of pressure might lead a crew to take the plane down below minimums in search for the runway, which is very, very dangerous.</speculation>
 

Ttownbeast

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To be completely honest, when I first heard about this I was expecting it to be followed with a punchline.
 

Rodimus Prime

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To be completely honest, when I first heard about this I was expecting it to be followed with a punchline.
You are not the only one. I too though the same thing. I read the title and was looking for the punchline with something that completely lack it.
 

Ugg

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On topic, from info currently available, it looks increasingly as though it was pilot error and that Lech most likely pushed the pilots to land. Since the black box was found and seems to be intact, hopefully we'll be able to hear what went on. Although, if Lech did push the pilots to land at all costs, the Poles might not want it to be known and if there was some hanky panky on the part of the Russians, well...