Investigators continue looking for the bodies of those killed in the air crash on the outskirts of Smolensk in western Russia. Sources from the law-enforcement structures of the Smolensk region said that specialists would most likely have to conduct excavation works to find the remains of the victims.
Many Western publications wrote that the Tu-154 plane, on which the Polish delegation was flying to Russia, was an old aircraft. The crashed Tupolev 154 officially belonged to the ministry of national defense of the Republic of Poland. It was the only special jetliner equipped for the transportation of top officials. Polish President Kaczynski and Prime Minister Donald Tusk came into a conflict with each other once because of the plane.
Viktor Baranets, the military observer of the Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper, said that the Tu-154 was not actually a Russian aircraft.
“I would not say that the Tu-154 is a Russian plane. It is a Soviet plane. About 70 percent of the military aviation of the Polish army consists of the aircraft made at the end of the Soviet era. The situation with civil planes is the same. More than a half of civil planes in Poland were made in the USSR. Many of them had to have their engines replaced several times already. One can understand the Poles, because Soviet and Russian aircraft have earned reliable reputation in the world. Tu-154 planes crashed in Poland twice. Both crashes were caused because of poor repairs, as it was determined later,” the specialist said.
Only 14 of the recovered bodies can be identified without any problems. About 20 other bodies will be identified by forensic pathologists, while genetic analysis will be required for the identification of all other bodies.
Relatives of the air crash victims arrive in Moscow. A charter plane from Warsaw landed at Moscow’s Domodedovo airport. Many of them will have to experience the identification procedure in several hours. The Moscow government covers all the costs, which the relatives have during their presence in Russia.
The black boxes of the crashed airliner have been delivered to the special laboratory of the International Aviation Committee. The majority of experts say that the tragedy happened because of the crew.
The plane was technically sound. The pilots were warned about the unfavorable weather conditions, but they decided to land anyway. Two planes landed on the military airdrome of Smolensk before the Tu-154 of Poland. A Yak-40 with journalists on board landed successfully. The military Il-76 preferred not to take risks and asked for landing at Moscow’s Vnukovo. It is worthy of note that the Il-76 was piloted by a very experienced pilot who was very familiar with the area.
“Military airdromes are equipped with the Katet landing system. The difference between the military and the civil systems is as follows. The glide path beacons of Katet are placed some 50 meters in front of the landing strip. In other words, a plane nears the beacons, pilots steer the plane and then the strip begins. In civil airdromes, the beacons are placed from the very start of the strip, and the pilot steers the plane above the strip. This is the first aspect. The second one is about the fact that the majority of civil airdromes, especially those, on which presidential liners land, have special light fields, on which planes land.
“Of course, the Tu-154 has the Katet system. You can turn it on and the system will take you to the place where the landing strip begins, but not to the strip itself. Afterwards, a pilot looks for the light field, which most likely does not exist on military airdrome. The crew of the crashed plane was looking for land – it is absolutely clear. That crew was used to flying on civil airdromes. They could probably land on military airdromes, but it was most likely not a typical case for them.
“The plane crashed 300 meters before the landing strip. The fact that the plane broke into many pieces and everyone on board died means that the vertical speed was more than 7 meters per second. This is a very large vertical speed for landing. A plane may develop this speed when a pilot tries to correct a mistake,” an expert, who wished to remain anonymous said.
Another Russian exert believes that the tragedy in Smolensk has a prequel, which took place on August 12, 2008. The aircraft commander of the Tu-154 of the Polish government refused to land the plane in Tbilisi, Georgia, for safety reasons and landed the aircraft in Azerbaijan, despite Lech Kaczynski’s protests.
“The aircraft commander and all of his passengers stayed alive. In the recent situation the commander has found himself a hostage of the situation. If he tried to land the plane three times and crashed during the fourth attempt, one can assume that he was in the same story that happened to his colleague in 2008. Most likely, he was supposed to land the plane at all costs. I would say that it was not the aircraft commander who made the decision to land, but the main passenger of the jetliner,” another expert said.
The crew probably refused to land on reserve airdromes in Minsk, Vitebsk and Moscow because Lech Kaczynski did not want to miss the beginning of officialevents, The Moskovsky Komsomolets newspaper wrote.
The mourning meeting in Katyn was to start at 11:30 a.m. The presidential liner was supposed to land in Smolensk at about 11 o’clock. The distance from Minsk (Belarus) to Katyn – 304 km, from Moscow – 397 km, which is a 4.5-hour drive. The distance from Vitebsk to Katyn is much shorter – 111 km. If they had landed in Katyn, Kaczynski would have been just an hour late for the ceremony. The Polish president apparently did not want people to think of him as an unpunctual person. In addition, landing in Belarus or in Moscow would have been politically incorrect, taking into consideration Poland’s tense relations with the two countries.
Hundreds of Smolensk residents took flowers and candles to the site of the Tu-154 crash. Some of them came to the site alone, others arrived in groups and even whole families, with little children. The people laid their flowers mostly along the road to the airdrome and near its gate. Some left flowers on the vehicles of Polish journalists.
Many Muscovites and guests of Moscow laid flowers near the building of the Polish Embassy in Moscow. Many of them cry. People leave notes with condolences in the Russian and Polish languages on the fence around the embassy building.
"This tragedy will bring us closer to each other, even though our peoples are very close to each other," a Russian man of Polish origin told RIA Novosti.
"These are our people, our friends and a part of our life. We are expressing condolences to the entire Polish people," performers of the Alexandrov Russian army academic song and dance ensemble told RIA Novosti while laying a floral basket near the embassy.
Russia is mourning the victims of the terrible crash on April 12.