Crash: Landing under probe

Crash: Landing under probe

Their inquiry may lead to an even more delicate question: whether the pilot felt under pressure to land to make sure that the Polish delegation would not be late for a ceremony on Saturday in the Katyn forest, where more than 20,000 Polish officers and others were massacred by the Soviets during World War II.

Officials have recovered the flight voice recorder, but on Sunday they did not release transcripts of conversations in the cockpit or the control tower. Still, attention has been drawn to the pilot’s state of mind because of a previous incident involving the Polish president, Lech Kaczynski, who died along with numerous other senior Polish government and military officials in the crash.

In August 2008, during Russia’s brief war with Georgia,  Kaczynski got into a dispute with a pilot flying his plane to the Georgian capital, Tbilisi, according to reports at the time. Kaczynski demanded that the pilot land despite dangerous conditions, but the pilot disagreed and diverted to neighbouring Azerbaijan.

Kaczynski threatened that there would be consequences for the pilot, the Polish newspaper Dziennik reported. “If someone decides to become a pilot, he cannot be fearful,” Kaczynski said. “After returning to the country, we shall deal with this matter.” That pilot was not disciplined and received a medal for his service.
Lech Walesa, the former Polish president, said that in these situations, the captain often sought the views of the government leaders on the plane. “If there were any doubts, the leaders were always approached and asked for their decision, and only on this basis were further steps taken,” he said.

Officials from both Russia and Poland were taking part in the inquiry into the crash, which killed 96 people, and they said preliminary evidence indicated there were no technical malfunctions on the plane, though it was a 20-year-old, Soviet-designed Tupolev.
The New York Times

DH Newsletter Privacy Policy Get the top news in your inbox
Comments (+)