Non-Crew in Cockpit of Doomed Polish Flight

Non-Crew in Cockpit of Doomed Polish Flight
# 20 May 2010 02:25 (UTC +04:00)
Baku – APA. Aviation authorities on Wednesday offered the most detailed picture to date of the terrifying moments before last month’s plane crash in Russia that killed Poland’s president, including confirmation that two or more passengers were in the cockpit before the aircraft attempted to land, APA reports quoting “The New York Times”.
In a news conference in Moscow, officials from Russia and Poland ruled out the possibility that technical failure, sabotage or terrorism could have caused the retrofitted Tupolev TU-154 carrying the president, Lech Kaczynski, and 95 others on board to slam into the trees just shy of a western Russian airport on April 10.
Rather, the officials, who offered no definitive conclusions, said investigators were exploring whether cellphone use on aboard the plane or crew inexperience, among other factors, could have caused the crash.
Investigators have also focused on the situation in the cockpit ahead of the crash in part to explain why the voices of passengers were captured on cockpit data recorders.
“It has been established that in the cockpit, there were individuals that were not members of the crew,” said Tatyana Anodina, the head of the Interstate Aviation Committee. “As for the influence on the decision making of the crew, this should be investigated,” she said. “This is important for the investigation and for establishing the cause” of the crash.
Edmond Klich, an envoy from the Polish government, said the voices were recorded 16 to 20 minutes before the crash.
Ms. Anodina said aviation rules prohibited her from releasing details about what was said in the cockpit, though the revelation could add to speculation that the pilots were pressed to land so that Mr. Kaczynski and other dignitaries would not be late for ceremonies marking the 70th anniversary of the Katyn massacre.
It was the first time a Polish president was invited by Russia to mark the anniversary at the site of the massacre, where in 1940 Soviet troops killed more than 20,000 Polish officers. The event was to be a symbol that Russia and Poland had overcome years of bitterness and had begun to improve relations.
Mr. Kaczynski’s delegation, which included his wife and top civilian and military officials, was already an hour and a half behind schedule when the plane took off from Poland for a military airfield in Smolensk in western Russia, said Aleksei Morozov, another official with the Interstate Aviation Committee.
As the plane approached the airport, air traffic controllers repeatedly warned that weather conditions were unfavorable for landing. About 11 minutes before the crash, the crew was informed that a Russian plane had failed at two landing attempts and had diverted to an alternative airport. About four minutes before the crash, Mr. Morozov said, air traffic controllers warned the crew that heavy fog had reduced visibility to around 650 feet.
The crew ignored the warnings and requested clearance for a landing attempt.
About 18 seconds before the crash, an alarm sounded warning the pilots to immediately increase altitude. For unknown reasons the pilots did not respond. The plane began to break up after its left wing hit a birch tree that was between 12 and 16 inches in diameter, Mr. Morozov said.
“From the time the fuselage started to break up,” Mr. Morozov said, “until its complete destruction due to its upside-down impact with the ground took five to six seconds.”