The State Subcommittee appointed by Polish Ministry of Defense to investigate the crash of Polish Tu-154M on April 10, 2010 in Smolensk, Russia, presents the status of the ongoing investigation as of April 2017.
Published: May 1, 2017
At the present stage of the ongoing investigation, the Subcommittee confirms that the most likely cause of the Smolensk crash were the actions undertaken by the Russian flight controllers under supervision of the Gen. Vladimir Benediktov. Gen. Benediktov directly supervised these operations from the “Logic” Center in Moscow. The Russian actions mislead the TU-154M during its approach to the Smolensk airport. The flight controllers guided the Polish plane in such a fashion as to prevent it from reaching the runway, and directed it to touch the ground at least a kilometer prior to the runway. The second phase included causing several breakdowns that hindered the TU-154M from landing precisely at the airport’s runway, and falsely suggesting that the cause of the crash was a result of errors made by the TU-154M pilots. The third phase was an explosion of the plane, shortly before it impacted the ground, killing all passengers and crew onboard.
Whilst according to the Russian Aviation Law, the Polish airplane TU-154M with the President of Poland onboard was designated with a letter “A” (HEAD-STATUS), which required particular care from the air traffic controllers during the final approach and landing, the execution of the airplane’s approach guidance by the Russian controllers deviated significantly from well-established standards. Firstly, both controllers, Lt. Col. Paul Plusnin and Maj. Victor Ryzhenko did not pass the mandatory medical examination that day. Next, Colonel Nikolai Kransnokutski entered the control tower and took over command from air traffic controllers, thereby violating the Aviation Law that requires controllers to have full autonomy of their decisions without any interference. Finally, the most signification violation of law occurred when General Vladimir Benediktov took command from Col. Krasnokutski via phone, and issued orders from the “Logic” Center in Moscow. In contrast, the Russian IL-76 and Polish Yak-40 were brought for landing without any interference from third parties, and in accordance with state-of-the-art procedures, and with proper diligence, by the same controllers just an hour earlier. Similar due care was also evident three days earlier when airplanes carrying Prime Minister Putin of Russia and Prime Minister Tusk of Poland, landed at the same airport. The Russian Airport Authority prepared and certified this airport for safe landing of VIP officials.
The role of the IL-76 piloted by Lt. Col. Oleg Frolov, a former Deputy Commander of the Smolensk air base, and a very experienced pilot, is unclear. The IL-76 was ordered to fly over the airport, to approach it twice for landing, and to go around. The controllers claim that this IL-76 was to deliver cars for the Polish VIP Delegation. Such cars were never delivered. However, Frolov himself testified that his responsibility was only to check all electronic systems and lights at the airport. He accomplished this task by making two approaches, so there was no need for landing. Both approaches were made from the distance of 17-18 kilometers, and the Russian controllers were informing the pilot precisely about the current distance to the runway; first every two kilometers and later every kilometer. At all times, they kept the IL-76 on a proper glide path. The IL-76 landing attempt was observed by the Polish crew of Yak-40, which landed 30 minutes earlier. They testified that IL-76 almost touched the ground at the airport before flying away. Although, there was a significant fog during both approaches, and weather conditions were worsening, the controllers decided to keep the airport open for the Polish Tu-154M.
The situation in the control tower was further deteriorating after the IL-76 flew away because of the decision taken by Krasnokutski, and Benediktov in Moscow. As a result, the information given to the Polish pilots was incorrect, including the information about the distance to the runway – 1 km too short. It started from the moment when flight controllers in the control tower decided to shorten the circle over the airfield for the Polish Tupolev.
Furthermore, the Russian controllers brought the Polish TU-154 to its final approach position at 10.5 km, but informed the pilots that they were only 9km from the runway. This in turn, forced them to glide down along a much steeper gliding path with higher vertical velocity, directing the plane one kilometer short of the runway. Although the Yak-50 pilot saw the APM Lights to be set 200m before the runway, controllers informed the TU-154M pilot that APM lights were set on the runway. Finally, the controller followed the Moscow’s order to bring the TU-154M to the altitude of 100 meters, by issuing a command “posadka dopolnityelno” – which means a conditional landing. More precisely, it means that when the pilot reaches the decision altitude of 100 meters, the controller must give either the command to land or to go around.
The Pilot-in-Command of the Tu-154M, A. Protasiuk, executed the Russian controller’s commands, but when his plane reached the decision-altitude of 100 meters, the Russian controllers did not issue any command(s). So, Captain Protasiuk himself issued a Go-Around command, the Second Pilot repeated his command, but the autopilot refused to execute the required maneuver. Captain Protasiuk was forced to disengage the autopilot, and began to increase the altitude manually, as confirmed by the testimony of the Russian radio beacon technician on the ground, who saw the airplane climbing from 10 meters above the ground. The likely reason for the Tu-154M inability to respond immediately to the Go-Around command, was a series of serious failures that began 2.5 km from the airport.
The Airplane black boxes registered failure of the hydraulic system, vibration of both, the right, and left engines. The left wing started to disintegrate 80 meters before any ground obstacles, and first wing fragments fell 45 meters before a birch tree that was blamed by the Russians to have caused the fatal damage to the wing. In fact, the airplane flew safely above the birch tree while significant fragments of the wing began to fall before, and on the birch tree, causing damage to this tree and other vegetation.
Many small fragments were dropped on branches of the trees and roofs of the nearby buildings. Only if the aircraft disintegrated in the air would those fragments have enough time to slow down due to air resistance before falling on small tree branches. To examine how high and how far away from a particular tree such a fragment has to fall from the airplane, a series of experiments were carried out on the Proving Grounds of the Central Air Force airport by a team from the Military Technical Academy (WAT). It consisted of dropping from a drone a replica of the identified fragment of the rib of the left wing of the aircraft, hanging on the branches of birch tree, with a speed comparable to the speed of the plane in Smolensk, i.e. 275 km/h, and the registration of their free-fall by two high speed cameras. The experiment showed that for the fragments of the left wing to settle down on branches of birch tree, they would have to break away at a distance of at least 70 meters in front of the boundary. Clearly, the above experiment undermines the hypothesis of the Russian MAK Commission and defunct Polish KBWL LP Commission.
We do not know what made the left wing of the plane to begin disintegrating after passing over the closer beacons, and whether this disintegration was related to the failure of the hydraulics recorded by the Polish ATM-QAR black box. But, we do know with absolute certainty that despite these defects, the plane began to effectively depart.
To carefully examine the aerodynamics of Tu-154M at the time of the crash, the Subcommittee built a precise replica of this plane based on digitalization of the twin Tu-154M airplane, using laser and photogrammetry. The replica was subjected to a series of wind tunnel tests and fluent simulations in two different laboratories in Poland and USA. The high quality of the results obtained, and the high agreement of the numeric analysis with the results of the experiment proved, that if the plane loses 1/3 of its wing, like in Smolensk, the wing loses only 10 percent of its lift force. Such loss of lift force can be compensated by the pilot action and is not sufficient to cause the plane to roll over. These experiments debunk the thesis that the pilots would lose control of the aircraft because of contact with the birch tree, and the loss of the 6-foot long wing tip.
At a distance of 850 meters from the runway, the ATM-QAR box registered a series of violent shocks in the airplane. Two seconds later, the TWAS warning system registered an event “Landing,” recorded the failure of the chassis, and the failure radio altimeter – all at 35 meters above the runway. On the basis of a report from the Universal Avionics – the American producer of the TAWS system – the Polish Tupolev was at the same altitude a second later, before starting the downfall. The last entries of this flight before all electrical systems failed completely (15m above the ground) were recorded at 8:41:04 – 8:41:05 AM by the Flight Management System of the Co-Pilot. At this time, the plane was at a distance of several dozen meters from the first contact with the ground. The final recorded altitude was 6 to 8 meters above the runway.
Just before the total electrical failure, the TAWS system could record a failure of the navigation system, as the last event in a sequence of failures before the crash, including left engine and power generator. The plane then lost not only an important part of the left wing, but also the left horizontal stabilizer, a part of the vertical stabilizer, and a part of the left wheel gear. The last phase of the tragedy was caused by the explosion, which occurred in the fuselage that destroyed the plane, breaking it into tens of thousands of fragments, and killing all passengers.
Analyzing the last phase of this disaster, the members of the Subcommittee, in cooperation with the National Institute of Aviation Research (NIAR), analyzed a case of the TU-145M plane’s door that was found at the crash site horizontally injected more than one meter deep into the ground. The scientists researched and identified conditions that were necessary for the second left side door to be injected more than one meter deep into the ground. The result of the tests and calculations carried out show that the vertical speed of the door was 10 times greater than the vertical speed of the entire aircraft before hitting the ground. Consequently, the door had to receive additional energy from some source to increase its momentum.
The identification and inventory of individual fragments of the Tu-154M was made and correlated with their location at the site of the crash, and digital reconstruction of the airplane was generated. Next the animation of the last seconds of the flight was prepared, including the sequence of fragments of the aircraft disintegration that landed in the location that were found in Smolensk. This way we could see factual disintegration sequence of the airplane.
The Subcommittee also carried out extensive analysis of the distribution and medical conditions of the victims’ bodies. At least four bodies were found at the crash site bearing the signs of high temperature, which in these cases cannot be explained by the proximity of fires on the ground.
A lot of facts (and witness) clearly indicate that during the 10 April 2010 crash there was a blast on board of the Polish Tu-154M. Massive failures registered in the last seconds of the flight, the total loss of power before the first contact with the ground, the distribution of wreckage debris at the crash site, the specific nature of the airplane damage, aerodynamic tests, the force with which the doors have been driven into the ground, these and many other factors led the Subcommittee to the conclusion that the possibility of an explosion in the air must be seriously taken into consideration.
In order to verify this hypothesis, the Subcommittee has conducted a number of tests with different types of explosives, including Thermobaric explosives placed in the central part of the airplane’s fuselage, built in 1:1 scale, with models of human models. Because of many such tests, a specific type of explosive was identified, which produced the most similar results to the type of destruction observed in Smolensk. Several important similarities to the disaster of TU-144M have been identified. In the closest experiment case, the produced sound had a low pitch, and flash and fires were short-lived. There was no smoke and fuselage was not covered with black deposits. The shock wave of the explosion pushed the bulkheads both forward and backward at the same time. The airplane model disintegrated into several large and many small fragments. The stringers and frames were similarly torn. Sheet metal was equally undulated, and rivets pulled and shut outward. Models of human bodies were not burned, although they may have received high temperature burns, and models of bone parts were similarly broken as in real bodies. Also, the damage to the seats was very like seats in Smolensk.
As a result of the experiments and analysis carried out by the Committee, it was concluded that the most likely cause of the predicated explosion was a Thermobaric explosive device that generated very strong shock wave. This shock wave obliterated all obstacles it encountered in its path. It blew out seats and bodies, and in many cases ripped off victims’ clothes, and destroyed the fuselage.
Click on the thumbnails below to view screen dumps from the detectors used to examine the wreckage and seats from the Polish president's plane crash in Smolensk. An "X" denotes the presence of the detected explosive substance and its type. The underlined Polish word "Probka" or "probka" in the screen dump 1 and 2, means "Sample"
Why did they all fly on the same plane?
Synopsis: January 12, 2013, Toronto, Canada. The wife of the late Deputy-Minister of Culture Tomasz Merta: "What I am about to tell you now, are suspicions - and not even my own - but, rather the [suspicions of the] individuals in the inner-circles of the [Polish] military... I heard a statement that was made - but, I am not taking any responsibility for how credible, or not credible it is. [I heard that] had the generals and journalists' not been re-assigned to different aircraft, it wouldn't have been the Tupolev [Tu-154M], but rather the Casa [transport aircraft] that would have been taken out.
Because the Generals were no longer onboard the Casa, there was no reason for it to get airborne. And for this reason it was the Yak[-40] that flew off to Smolensk. This Casa [transport aircraft] was never examined in any way. It was not subject to any examination. Aside from a single note in the deposition given to the military, no one was interested why this aircraft didn't fly [to Smolensk]. Perhaps, this is someones crazy phantasy, but perhaps it isn't.
Some [Polish] military personnel had suggested, that it [the Casa] had to stay behind at the Okecie military [tarmack], so that the explosives could be removed from it - because they were no longer needed [...] I am only repeating what I was told."
"Disarming" Explosives ...
It is worth for us to retrace the entire process of "disarming" the case of explosive substances at the crash site. It all started with the publication of Cezary Gmyz in "Rzeczpospolita" on October 30, 2012, and information that the detectors, which were used by experts in Smolensk (in late September and October) showed traces of TNT and nitroglycerine.
As it turned out, the journalist was also reporting about the indication of Hexogen. The storm broke. The prosecution denied the publication, and ultimately, the editor-in-chief of "Rzeczpospolita," Cezary Gmyz and two other journalists lost their jobs. The entire editorial staff of one of Poland’s most popular weeklies, "Uważam Rze", was also silenced.
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