Wednesday, May 26, 2010

How to Kill a Polish President and Use Bad Weather as an Accomplice (Updated)

I have been following for sometime, the stories on the death of Polish President Lech Kaczynski and I wanted to wait until the release of the final report on the tragic crash before I would write down the facts on events with the crash.

The final report states that it was pilot error. I am not surprised by this.

The Tusk administration has gone along with the Russians in their investigation.

Interestingly, Minister of Defence Klich agrees with the Russians, it is noted below by Klich:

Klich a doctor of psychiatry, has been singled out as the key figure responsible not only for the crisis in the system of national defence but also for the strategy in the investigation which is now under Russian control. It is a Russian commission that will issue the final report of the catastrophe.
I happen to take the same position the Russian dissidents have stated, when it comes to the Russians handling the investigation:

According to Russian dissidents, the Polish government is naive to think Russia wants to reveal the entire truth about the crash.

“There’s an impression the Russian authorities are not interested in clarifying all reasons behind the catastrophe, while the Polish authorities repeat the assurances of ‘complete openness’ they get from the Russian side, not making any demands from it and only waiting patiently until the long-promised materials arrive from Moscow,” reads the letter.

The document, published Tuesday in conservative daily Rzeczpospolita, was signed by Soviet-era dissidents and present-day critics of the Kremlin: Alexander Bondarev, Vladimir Bukovsky, Viktor Feinberg, Natalya Gorbanevskaya, and Andrey Illarionov.

According to the letter, rapprochement with the current Russian authorities is more important for the Polish government that determining the truth about the plane crash.

“It seems that the Polish friends are demonstrating some naiveté, forgetting that the interests of the current Kremlin leadership and those of the nations of Russia’s neighbors do not converge,” reads the letter.

Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk Tuesday dismissed the criticism, saying his administration would soon obtain flight data from the Russian investigators before making its own judgment and revealing it to the public.
The Russian government may think it is untouchable.

But what can be done is; show the pattern of deception and errors that were made by the Russians and show that this was not pilot error, but an accident by design through actions taken by certain Polish authorities and Russian authorities.

And the media for whatever their reasons are, they have enabled the Russians to deceive the public on what the facts are.

Weather Used as the Accomplice and Why Use Runway 26?

When weather is a factor in an accident, it is important to look at all the weather data available in this type of investigation. From climatological data to upper air soundings, weather observations, PIREPS, weather warnings, weather forecasts and weather briefings.

In this mishap, the actions of certain individuals that caused the accident, started three days prior to when President Lech Kaczynski traveled to Smolensk on April 10th.

When looking at the approach plates of Smolensk, not much information is given on the the type of terrain that is at the approach end of Runway 26.

To a meteorologist or a pilot who is not familiar with Runway 26, a shallow valley that is about 1100 meters from the runway would be an unknown.

To a pilot, this shallow valley is important when reading a radar altimeter and to a meteorologist, the shallow valley represents an area where morning fog develops and does so, even when there is a slight wind.

In the news on May 20th, it was reported:

The plane went down in a ravine 15 metres below the level of the runway, just a kilometre away.

"The presence of this ravine can have a natural influence on the readings of the radio altimeter," Morozov said. "This is one of the subjects the technical commission is working on."

(emphasis added)
For the pilot who flew President Lech Kaczynski on April 10th, he also flew into Smolensk on April 7th.

But on April 7th, since Prime Minister Tusk was on-board, the pilot landed the plane on Runway 08 instead of Runway 26. And looking at the approach plate, Runway 08 looks as if it is the main runway used there.

It is interesting the Russian authorities first kept making the statement that Smolensk was not updated to handle the president's aircraft. But when you look at photos of the military base, you can see that large aircraft were using the military base.

And adding to the idea that Runway 08 is the main runway, about three hours after the crash, the Russian military were changing bulbs on the approach end of Runway 26,in what seemed to be the Russian's trying to bolster their statement that the facility was not updated.

Since there were faulty runway lights on the approach end of Runway 26, it seems odd the Russians didn't feel it necessary to change them prior to the president landing.

Moreover, according to the same article in the link from above, it was later noted by Russian officials that, "Proper radar facilities were in place at the Smolensk airport, which was inspected on April 5 and found to be fit to accept VIP flights."

(emphasis added)

The above fact on the proper radar being at Smolensk; this is a direct contradiction to an earlier story that was published on May 17th, stating:

Russian authorities warned the Polish delegation that they could not guarantee safety if the presidential Tu-154 landed near Smolensk, as the town’s Severny military airport was not fitted with proper guidance systems.

The Russians suggested that the Polish plane should land at Bryansk International Airport, some 250 km from Katyn. However, Andrzej Kremer, deputy Foreign Minister and Andrzej Przewoznik, Secretary of the Council for the Protection of Struggle and Martyrdom Sites, who had previously held talks with the Russians (and who died in the crash), accused them of trying to make it difficult for the Polish delegation to reach Katyn and persuaded the Russians to agree for the landing near Smolensk.

“The airport in Bryansk has a better guidance system than the airport near Smolensk, where there are only radio beacons which do not allow a pilot to assess a flight path precisely. Bryansk is fitted with SP-80M system, which guides a plane automatically to the runway, warning about land proximity. Pilots of the presidential Tu-154 practically used only airports equipped with such systems. If they had landed in Bryansk, they wouldn’t have had problems even if visibility was close to zero,” says one of the best Russian test pilots and expert on plane crashes.

In the past Russian authorities agreed several times that a Polish VIP delegation landed near Smolensk. It remains unclear why this time they did not want Poles to use the airport. One of the possible scenarios alleges that when Severny airport was converted into a civil-military airport last autumn, the army could have removed some of its equipment, such as a more precise guiding system. “The Russian Interstate Aviation Committee (MAK), which investigates the cause of the crash, is certainly inspecting if this was possible,” says Aleksandr Koronchin, chief power engineer at the airport near Smolensk.
The acknowledgement made by the Russians that the proper radar was at Smolensk, lends support to the comments made by Russian journalist Yulia Latynina in her op-ed for the Moscow Times titled Scent of Shale Gas Hangs over Katyn.

There, she stated that according to a Russian source, a mobile radar unit was sent to Smolensk for the arrival of Tusk.

However, there was speculation that the Russian Air Traffic Control (ATC) did not use the radar for the arrival of the president.

I don't believe this to be true since the Russian ATC was following the aircraft's descent.

However, the change in the story made by the Russians was done because the Russians had crossed their story with the fact Tusk had landed there on April 7th on Runway 08.

Added to these facts, after the accident, there were photos taken of the approach end of Runway 26 and there is a military vehicle that has the same profile of mobile radar units that have ATC and jamming capabilities.

Military vehicle at radio beacon - two military antennas to the left of radio beacon antenna.

This is another photo that was taken a few weeks later by a Russian who stated the antenna in the picture is located at Smolensk and this type of antenna is part of a mobile ATC radar unit.

As you can see, it is held up by cables and masts.

Adding to the question on why did the Russians have the president us Runway 26 is, according to the approach plate, the distance between between the two radio beacons on the approach of Runway 26 is 6 km, not the 4 km that separate the two radio beacons on approach to Runway 08.

The normal distance between radio beacons, according to the Polish military, is 4 km and this was a cause for concern on the calibration of instruments.

The question remains, why use Runway 26?

Now given the president's pilot flew to Smolensk two times, what were the briefed weather conditions and forecasts from April 7th to April 10th?

The Accomplice: Fog

First it must be noted when you look at the weather observations, the president's plane was delayed one hour.

The Yak-40 that was carrying the Polish press, landed the time the president's plane was originally scheduled to land.

The flight from Warsaw, originally scheduled for 06:30, had its departure time revised to 07:00 and subsequently took off late at 07:27.
(emphasis added)

No one knows why the president's plane was delayed.

Because Smolensk has an automated weather observing system, observations are not detailed for the area and weather data is very limited.

April 7th -- No fog, but indication of low stratus.

1:00 AM 47 °F 39 °F 67% 30.32 in 6 miles SE 2.2 mph - - Partly Cloudy
4:00 AM 45 °F 38 °F 70% 30.30 in 6 miles Calm Calm - - Mostly Cloudy
7:00 AM 42 °F 39 °F 83% 30.30 in 6 miles Calm Calm - - Overcast
10:00 AM 45 °F 38 °F 70% 30.32 in 6 miles SE 2.2 mph - - Mostly Cloudy
1:00 PM 57 °F 38 °F 37% 30.30 in 6 miles South 2.2 mph - Clear
4:00 PM 61 °F 32 °F 21% 30.25 in 12 miles South 8.9 mph - Scattered Clouds

From early morning to 10:00 A.M., there is an indication that stratus and fog form.

April 8th - Rain and fog reduce the visibility to 2 miles

1:00 AM 46 °F 41 °F 77% 30.26 in 6 miles NE 2.2 mph - - Partly Cloudy
4:00 AM 44 °F 42 °F 88% 30.29 in 6 miles NNW 2.2 mph - - Mostly Cloudy
7:00 AM 42 °F 41 °F 94% 30.28 in 2 miles NNW 2.2 mph - - Light Rain Showers
10:00 AM 42 °F 41 °F 94% 30.32 in 12 miles North 6.7 mph - Partly Cloudy
1:00 PM 43 °F 39 °F 81% 30.35 in 12 miles NNE 4.5 mph - - Mostly Cloudy

April 9th - Heavy fog and winds pick up from the East sometime between 7:00 and 10:00A.M.

1:00 AM 37 °F 36 °F 92% 30.35 in 6 miles NE 4.5 mph - - Scattered Clouds
4:00 AM 38 °F 37 °F 94% 30.35 in 6 miles ENE 4.5 mph - - Overcast
7:00 AM 38 °F 38 °F 100% 30.35 in 0 miles East 4.5 mph - - Fog Heavy Fog
10:00 AM 39 °F 39 °F 100% 30.35 in 1 miles East 6.7 mph - - Mist
1:00 PM 48 °F 40 °F 64% 30.33 in 2 miles East 6.7 mph - - Clear

April 10th - Heavy fog, winds pick up from the East sometime between 7:00 and 10:A.M.

1:00 AM 43 °F 31 °F 52% 30.26 in 6 miles SE 4.5 mph - - Mostly Cloudy
4:00 AM 37 °F 31 °F 72% 30.27 in 6 miles SE 4.5 mph - -
7:00 AM 33 °F 31 °F 89% 30.28 in 2 miles ESE 4.5 mph - - Mist
10:00 AM 34 °F 34 °F 98% 30.29 in 0 miles SE 6.7 mph - - Fog Heavy Fog
1:00 PM 37 °F 36 °F 94% 30.28 in 2 miles East 8.9 mph - - Mist

The importance of the winds picking up from the east between 7:00 and 10:00 A.M. is, it indicates an inversion breaking and accordingly, the fog that develops in the valley on the approach end of Runway 26, it will move towards the runway.

And given the pattern of fog developing in the morning hours, I find the fact that the president's pilot was not briefed on the problems with fog at Smolensk, a red flag.

In an article published on May 4th, it was stated:

One of the hypotheses that the military prosecutor examines the reasons for establishing the presidential Tupolev crash near Smolensk, is a bad organization and security of flight, including abnormalities of the Polish and Russian ground staff. According to Rzeczpospolita prosecutors seized documents from the Centre for Hydrometeorology of the Armed Forces (CHSZ).
(emphasis added)

There were questions on why the president wasn't briefed by Polish authorities on the fog.

Military Hydrometeorology Centre, which is responsible for informing the pilots about weather conditions, with poor visibility due to fog in the vicinity of the airport Smolensk-Siewiernyj learned just minutes before the crash (if we assume that the Tu-154 crashed into the ground in the chair. 8.41) - fixed " Rom.

Dispatch Synoptic Okecie Airport was alarming: "visibility in Smolensk to 500 meters, the sky invisible."

Meanwhile, the presidential Tupolev pilots from 96 people on board the last message of the weather conditions in Smolensk received just prior to departure from Okecie of 7.27. Came from the chair. 5.00 and - as it turned out - was long obsolete. She talked about the good visibility in Smolensk. There were no warning about having to come thick fog.
What is odd is, the Polish authorities involved with briefing the weather, had available data at the departure time that showed visibility was 2 miles and fog and visibility was decreasing.

There is a contradiction between what the Polish authorities with dispatch stated and what weather observations were available.

Clearly, with the sequence of the early morning weather observations and historical observations from the previous days, all indications were; fog would develop, the winds would pick up from the East and fog would reduce the visibility on the approach end of Runway 26.

Since it is known certain Polish authorities with dispatch did not brief the pilot on the poor visibility, the question if the pilot was told about the bad weather, then moves to the Russian ATC.

In the same article, it is stated:

The reason for the lack of procedures. For when the Polish services already knew about the bad weather conditions in Smolensk, the presidential Tupolev approached the airport Siewiernyj. He was thus in the Russian zone and that air service to its conflict should be informed of the change of weather conditions. This is confirmed by Lt. Col. Robert Kupracz, a spokesman for the Air Force.

- Information at the request of the crew provide area control of air, which at the moment there is an aircraft or airport controller Smolensk-Siewiernyj - he says.

Nowadays it is not known whether the Russian controller and how did it sounded Polish pilots transmitted messages. Perhaps this explains the record of the black boxes. The head of the committee to investigate the causes of the disaster George Miller, Minister of Internal Affairs and Administration, refused to "Government" to provide such information.
(emphasis added)

Now the Russians state the pilot was told about the bad weather.

However, the Russian official's stories on what was told to the pilot has changed.

Prior to a leaked recording of the cockpit voice recorder of the last 30 minutes of the flight, the Russians had stated that the pilot made four attempts to land the plane.

That story was false.

Initial reports said the pilot made three or four approaches before the collision, but these statements were later found to be false.
The pilot made one attempt.

Once the following recording below was leaked on the internet, the Russian authorities changed their story to there was only one approach and there was a break in protocol between the pilot and Russian ATC.


In the recording, the president's pilot asked the Russian ATC what the visibility was.

In the pilot's readback, he states "Ok the haze is eight kilometers,seven four four and we need to come into land .. ok we are coming down..."

As previously pointed out, the visbility prior to thepresident's plane taking off was 2 miles and fog.

In a sensationalized video released on the internet by an amatuer videographer, you can look toward the end where the shallow valley sets and see the visibility is poor but not 200 meters as was stated by Russian authorities. Also, through the smoke you can make out the height of the obscuration of the fog and see blue sky.

Link to video

As an aside to the video, there was the allegation that the videographer was murdered adding to conspiracies about gunshots heard in the video.

The allegation about the videographer being murdered proved to be a hoax. The Russian authorities allowed the person who took the video to issue a statement.

I was surprised that the burning wreckage, scattered among things, broken trees can not see at all the people. Even thought it crashed machine or military transport, and not the passenger. No bodies, no wounded, and we do not hear anyone calling assistance. I was close enough and believe me that if I heard a cry for help, I would not hesitate for a second.


Given the deaths in this crash and where the videographer was, the comments made by the videographer on there being no dead bodies is suspect.

In another video published by the Polish news, a camerman had walked over to the same area where the amatuer video was, but the camerman was escorted from the area.

The area had emergency vehicles there.

Video link of camerman being escorted.

At 2:19 the camerman is looking towards the direction of the runway and where the nose of the aircraft was and at 2:47 the camerman begins to walk towards the same area the amatuer videographer was and is escorted away by Russian authorities.

Other eyewitnesses that were near a road that was east and quite a distance from the approach end of Runway 26, indicated that visibility was poor which would be expected since the shallow valley was just east of the road.

With regard to the barometric pressure, there is the likelihood the pilot was given the wrong barometric pressure reading (744mm Hg (29.29 inches Hg)) and the question on how the pilot interpreted the information on the barometric pressure remains.

Did the pilot interpret the barometric pressure reading to be QFE or QNH?

The Russian authorities have not provided one single radio tranmission that is in a continues natural flow with the pilot's readback.

Instead of the actual recordings, the Russians are providing transcripts of the cockpit voice recorder.

When it came to the Terrain Awareness Warning System (TAWS), the Russian officials changed their story.

Orginally, through analysis of the voice recording data, it was stated that the TAWS was thought to have been turned off because it never warned the pilots they were too low.

Analysis of the black boxes suggests the pilot was unaware of how low he was flying, which is surprising since the craft was fitted with a special safety device called a Terrain Awareness and Warning System (TAWS) that warns the crew when the craft gets too close to the ground and prevents collision with obstacles such as hills, antennas or trees.

The aircraft is known to have hit the top of trees as it attempted to land at Smolensk air base in western Russia, causing the plane to crash, killing all 96 on board.

The faulty warning system is but one of many theories and speculation which have continued to circulate on Polish media as to what caused the plane to crash.

The system, however, might have been turned off because the military airport near Smolensk does not allow such a system to be used, Col. Tomasz Pietrzak, a long-time commander of the presidential fleet, claims.

“TAWS works properly only if atmospheric pressure is given in hectopascals, i.e. it refers to sea level (QNH), not ground level (QFE),” Pietrzak told the RFM radio station.

Many airports (especially local ones, including the airport near Smolensk) use QFE units, which show distance to the airfield and are incorrect from the point of view of TAWS.
(emphasis added)

Here is the breakdown on the QFE problem.

Systems and methods for automatic detection of QFE operations

Some airports around the world still operate under the practice of atmospheric pressure at field elevation (QFE). At QFE airports, Automatic Terminal Information Service (ATIS) or a similar outputted system outputs a barometric pressure setting value. This value is one that when an aircraft is positioned on the ground at the airport the barometric altimeter reading in the aircraft will read zero regardless of the altitude of the airport. Therefore, as shown in FIG. 1, if an aircraft is flying to a QFE airport that is at the elevation of 1000 feet, the barometric altimeter indicates that the aircraft is 1000 feet lower than it actually is. This does not become a problem if the aircrew informs all systems within the aircraft that use barometric pressure that it is based on a QFE setting. However, if the aircrew fails to make sure the other aircraft systems understand that the barometric altimeter is based on QFE operation, then the other aircraft systems will produce false alerts. For example, as the aircraft is descending towards the airport, a Terrain Awareness System (TAWS) produces caution and warning alerts as the aircraft is on approach to the airport because the TAWS believes that the aircraft is 1000 feet closer than it actually is to the ground. Since the aircraft is actually flying 1000 feet higher, this alert is a nuisance alert. Because of the number of tasks performed on an approach to landing, the flight crew may be overloaded and not want to bother with figuring out the cause of the alert and thus just deactivate the TAWS. Deactivation of the TAWS leaves the aircraft vulnerable to controlled flight into terrain (CFIT).
Now enter Polish investigator Klich and what he stated in the final report:

Warsaw - The pilots of a jet which crashed in Russia killing Polish president Lech Kaczynski and 95 others repeatedly ignored automatic alerts they were flying too low, an investigator said on Wednesday.

Polish investigator Edmund Klich told Poland's Rzeczpospolita daily that the crew "failed to react to automatic signals: The warning 'terrain ahead' or 'pull up'. These were ignored."

"When the pilots were at 100m altitude, they should have begun to pull up the plane, not assume that they would succeed in landing," said Klich, who has heard the black box recordings of cockpit conversations recovered from the crash site.
The story has now changed to the TAWS was on and working. But as stated in the orginal story, the TAWS would only work properly with the correct barometric pressure and the TAWS never warned the pilots.

In another story, according to the cockpit voice recorder, the Ground Proximity Warning System (GPWS) issued an alarm:

Analysis of black boxes show that the Ground Proximity Warning System (GPWS) issued an alarm in the cockpit, thirty seconds before the plane hit the tops of trees one kilometer from the landing strip. It is possible, though, that the crew ignored the warning because they knew that the military airport near Smolensk was not included in the GPWS data base.

“If the pilot was absolutely sure that landing was safe and knew that the alarm would be issued automatically because the airport was not in the system, it is obvious that he could have ignored it,” says Capt. Grzegorz Pietruczuk, who pilots Tu-154s.

Pietruczuk adds that the Russian air control could have made a mistake as well, not knowing that the presidential plane was fitted with a barometric altimeter.
(emphasis added)

With regard to the question on if the plane was fitted with a barometric altimeter, the Russians knew the plane was fitted with a barometric altimeter. They did they maintenence on the aircraft before Prime Minister Tusk flew to Smolensk on April 7th.

Link to photo of Tupolev-154 cockpit.

The interesting point about the GPWS is, it sent an alarm off 30 seconds before the plane hit the tree tops 1200 meters from the end of the runway.


Some investigators think that the plane's instruments may have been affected by cell phones.

According to Poland's chief prosecutor, Andrzej Seremet, the latest investigation surrounds the cell phones which were kept on board the Russian-made plane. Around a hundred cell phones were active during the last leg of the flight, Mr Seremet told daily Rzeczpospolita.

“[Passengers] called from them and sent SMSs. It may be useful in assessing if the phone use had any effect on the functioning of the instruments on the plane. This is another hypothesis which needs to be verified. It is not that the prosecution has [worked on] only a few threads of the inquiry. And those relating to the technical side will take time. Therefore, I appeal for patience and restraint in assessing the progress of the investigation,” he explained.
There has been no proof offered to the speculation that cell phones were being used other than the president calling his brother on a satellite phone 30 minutes prior to landing.

In addition to the GPWS alarm going off 30 seconds from when the plane hit the first tree that was 1200 meters from the runway, Russian officials stated that they told the pilot he was below the glide slope.

The Russian ATC told the pilot he was below his glide slope 1500 meters from the runway, well after the GPWS alarm sounded and just a few seconds before the pilot hit the trees 1200 meters from the runway.

So why would the GPWS warning go off 30 seconds before hitting tree tops at 1200 meters before the end of Runway 26?

Did the pilot have the wrong barometric pressure given to him by the Russian ATC which caused him to think he was higher than he actually was?

Or was the GPWS being disrupted by signals?

There are many inconsistencies that have been put forth by the Russian officials and many were false.

So for the Russians to say this was pilot error without providing the orginal cockpit recordings; their statements should be looked as part of their continued deception.

Until hard evidence supporting pilot error is produced by the Russians, the Polish president was killed with using bad weather as an accomplice.

Update: In a story published in the Warsaw Business Journal, there was a question if the radio signal was disrupted.

The radio tower at Smolensk airport may have been dysfunctional on the fateful morning of April 10, and contributed to the Polish presidential airplane disaster.

Signals from the radio tower were problematic to the Polish crew of a Yak-40, which landed in Smolensk about an hour before the presidential Tu-154. It was the last airplane to successfully land at the airport that day.

Just minutes prior to the crash, a Russian Il-76 diverted to Moscow after it was unable to stabilize its approach to landing. The Yak's Polish crew saw it veer to the left of the runway, a mistake that should not occur when a constant radio signal is present, according to sources close to Rzeczpospolita.

Russian investigators tested the airport following the catastrophe, without the involvement of Polish experts, and said the radio beacon was operational.

Both Polish and Russian experts continue the search for causes of the April 10 airplane crash which killed Polish President Lech Kaczyński, his wife Maria and 94 others.
What is interesting is the fact that the Polish crew that had flown and landed one hour prior to the crash of the president's plane, could see the Russian Il-76 veer left of the runway.

This would indicate that visibilty was poor on the approach end where the valley set and visbility increased as you approached the end of Runway 26.

In a summary put out by the Russians and reported on it is stated:

Sixteen minutes before the accident, the Yak-40 crew relayed the 400m figure and added that the vertical visibility was just 50m. Another aircraft, an Ilyushin Il-76, had made two approaches to Smolensk before aborting its approach and diverting to an alternate airport. The visibility continued to decline and, four minutes before the crash, the Yak-40 crew told the Tu-154 pilots that it had fallen to just 200m.
(emphasis added)

If the vertical visibility was only 50 meters, how did the Polish crew of the Yak-40 see the Ilyushin Il-76 when it was veering left?

The pilots would have gone below their threshold if they were at 50 meters.

Once again the Russians get their stories crossed.


Anonymous said...

This looks like just a groundless black PR.

The conclusions about the "contradictions" in Russian position are based either on early reports of clueless journalists that confuse "4-th approach" with "4-th turn" or wrong (or purposefully misleading) interpretations of their words. For example when the officials stated "... airport was not fitted with proper guidance systems" they meant ILS, but the statement "Proper radar facilities were in place at the Smolensk airport" was about radar used by ATC.

Runway 8 and 26 is the same physical runway depending on whether it is approached from east or west. According to transcript of cockpit dialogs, the captain was aware about the shallow valley about 1100 meters from the runway. He even said that fog appeared there.

In the continuation of this story

the author states that the APC gave the pilot wrong pressure:
"The pressure given to the pilots was 745mm Hg, and accordingly the pressure would be 29.33inches Hg. The actual observation at Smolensk for the time was 30.29 inches."
I wonder where did he get the actual pressure from? But even if that was true (that I am not convinced) it would not bring the aircraft into the valley 1100 meters from the runway. That pressure difference corresponds to 30 meters altitude error. As a result the plane would touch the ground about 570 meters before the runway with a standard 3-degree glideslope (30m/tan(3degrees)), not 1100 meters, so it cannot explain steep dive under the glideslope.

The article has many details trying to make an impression of a diligent investigation, but in reality it is groundless.

Anonymous said...

I will spend a few more minutes to further comment this BS.
When pilots were preparing for landing they did not care about pressure in downtown Smolensk. They needed pressure at the runway level. As you can see in the second picture the terrain at Smolensk is not flat and pressure reading depends on where (at what elevation) it is measured. If the atmosphere pressure is not measured at the runway level it must be corrected in accordance with altitude difference. At low altitudes, each 12 meters correspond to 1mm Hg difference. If the author does not know that he is an ignorant amature not qualified to make the judgements he is trying to make. And if he knows but does not tell you then he probably is trying to mislead his readers.

About QFE vs QNH. All Russian airports are consistent and provide pressure at the runway level. The Polish pilots were flying in Russia before, so it should be a no-braner for them. But even if they confused pressure at the runway and the sea level (that would be an amature mistake not forgivable even for a beginner preparing for his first Instrument Rating License test) they would not have been able to enter the glideslope and remain on it for so long. The argument dismissed.

What about the speculation about the radio beacon problem that was allegedly causing some planes to veer to the left of the runway? The Polish pilots of Yak-40 did not mention it in radio communication with the Tu-154. Ok, we can speculate that the sneaky KGB might have zombied them. But the Tu-154 did not veer to the left until her left wing broke in a collision with a big tree. The speculation dissmissed.

Ans what was the purpose of adding "the sensational video" providing zero information and mentioning that there were allegations that the videographer was murdered, but it proved to be a hoax? There is an old joke. One man tells his friend: "Yesterday after you left the party at my home we could not find our silver spoons. The spoons were found later, but the bad impression remains".

I could continue arguing with the other statements and "facts" but I feel that I already overspent my time on this BS.

Tom said...

The PLF 101 was 40 meters to the left of the approach cetnerline and was before it hit the first tree.

That has already been proven.

The APM's (the gates) that the pilots on the Yak 40 spoke about are approach lights and according to the Russians there were no runway lights (gates l/r 200 meters from the runway) so how could you turn them on.

On the approach plate, Runway 26 does not show "gates" but Runway 08 does and that is the main runway.

Moreover, the question was asked by the Russian ATC if the pilot had flown into a military base which raises the question on what was told to the pilot.

Your calculation on the height is incorrect by 30 feet.

Moreover, the pilot was reading his RA, the TAWS would have been keyed to the baro and if it was correct I guess that makes it even more interesting considering he was being coached in by ATC and the TAWS was going off.

Anonymous said...

> The PLF 101 was 40 meters to the left of the approach cetnerline and was before it hit the first tree.
> That has already been proven.

True but irrelevant. Being on the left from the approach centerline does not mean "veering to the left". One of the attempts to reconstruct the last seconds of the PLF 101 concludes that the aircraft was "converging" with the centerline, so it was "veered" to the right with respect to the direction of the "ideal" approach.

I am not trying to judge truthfullness of that reconstruction. My point is that your conclusion is groundless unless you have access to the black boxes and know exactly what was the aircraft bearing.

> according to the Russians there were no runway lights (gates l/r 200 meters from the runway) so how could you turn them on.
> On the approach plate, Runway 26 does not show "gates" but Runway 08 does and that is the main runway.

According to some other "Russians" (local Smolensk bloggers) the Runway 8 has no radio beacons to accept planes at all (so it cannot be the main runway):

> Your calculation on the height is incorrect by 30 feet.

My calculation is indeed wrong. Not by 30 feet though, but by factor 10. When I was converting inches to millimeters I multiplied by 2.54 instead of 25.4. Correct estimation of altitude difference between 29.33 and 30.29 inches Hg is about 300 meters. Do not tell me that I am wrong again: I verified this estimate against the US Standard Atmosphere 1976:

If the plane flew 300 meters below the correct glideslope it would fly into the terrain 5000-6000 meters before the runway, not 1100 meters. So, this "actual" pressure now makes even less sense.

Anonymous said...

Oh, I know where this "actual" pressure comes from: this is the QNH pressure (actual pressure translated into pressure at sea level). More precise altitude difference is 270 meters and according to the terrain profile in picture 2 the runway altitude is 254 meters. Close enough. So, your data actually prove that the ATC gave the pilots correct pressure (as I already said all airport in Russia use QFE).

Anonymous said...

> the TAWS would have been keyed to the baro and if it was correct I guess that makes it even more interesting considering he was being coached in by ATC and the TAWS was going off.

I am not a TAWS expert, but this device obviously has more information than ATC. E.g. TAWS can extrapolate momentary velocity vector that ATC cannot do (ATC sees only delayed trends). So it is not surprising that ATC did not immediately catch the sudden dive under the glideslope. But even when he noted the dive he probably assumed that the pilots of the "Polish Air Force 1" knew that they were doing. But they seem to have made a beginner's mistake: lost control over descent rate trying to visually spot the ground.