Pilots in crash knew plane was doomed
THE crew of the aircraft carrying the Polish president managed to broadcast a final message before the plane plunged into woodland in western Russia, killing all 96 on board, the first analysis of black-box recorders shows.
Investigators disclosed that the pilots were aware they could do nothing to prevent Saturday's crash.
"On the basis of the data in the possession of prosecutors, one could say that the crew was aware of the inevitability of the coming catastrophe," said Andrzej Seremet, Poland's chief prosecutor.
He added that the passengers, including President Lech Kaczynski, probably remained unaware of the danger until the very last second.
Investigators believe that as the aircraft approached Smolensk airport, and was just a few metres off the ground, its left wing was shorn off by a tall tree. Pictures taken near the crash site showing a tree cut in half appear to corroborate this theory. Missing a wing, the aircraft rolled to its left before slamming into the ground roof first and breaking into pieces.
Experts estimate that only three to five seconds elapsed between hitting the tree and the plane's destruction.
Russian investigators said the black boxes also indicated that the Polish pilots were unfamiliar with the aircraft and tried to descend too fast, and thereby caused the crash.
"An analysis of the evidence, including the first results from the decoding of the black boxes, shows that an error in piloting led to the disaster," a source close to the investigation was quoted as saying.
The report said that as the Tupolev Tu-154 made its ill-fated attempt to land, it approached at a greater speed than the pilots may have intended, which may have caused the plane to lose altitude quickly. (© Daily Telegraph, London)