Accident of Tu154 on 10 April 2010: Preliminary Review of the Reports, their Omissions & Deficiencies
by Frank Taylor, BSc, CEng, FRAeS, FEI, FISASI
SCND July 30, 2015
The purposes of an accident investigation are to establish the causes of the accident and the causes of injuries to those on board so that safety recommendations may be made both to help prevent future accidents and, in relatively low speed accidents such as this, to improve the chances of survival of crew and passengers.
From an as yet incomplete study of the Russian and Polish accident reports (in the translations available on the Aviation Safety Network website) and of various articles, diagrams and photographs I would suggest that although the reports appear to offer a plausible explanation for the crash there were serious deficiencies in the way the investigation was handled, including omissions and failures to explain a variety of factors that might well affect the final conclusions. At this stage I believe that the following points should be considered:
1. Satellite images suggest that some items of wreckage were moved during the day of the accident or the day after, I have not found an explanation for this.
2. The description and analysis of the wreckage does not appear to explain some unusual damage to the aircraft, notably the opening outwards of a section of the rear fuselage. There have been reports that not all wreckage was cleared from the accident site, some being found some six months after the accident. Such lack of care is unacceptable on many counts including that this wreckage is most unlikely to have been identified and documented.
3. The wreckage does not seem to have been treated with the care normally associated with such accidents, it appears to have been moved before a proper study could have been made and it was not stored in an acceptable way. Furthermore its ‘reconstruction’ appears to be far from complete, indeed totally inadequate for any further study, and thus many aspects concerning the sequence of break up and the disruption within the passenger cabin are not clear.
4. The reporting and probably the investigation of the crashworthiness and survival aspects of the accident were superficial and well short of international and ICAO standards. That the forward fuselage and cockpit were subject to high ‘g’ (100 g is mentioned) is apparent but so too is the fact that the rear fuselage and passengers therein were subject to very much lower decelerations, this should have been described and explained. The required attention to passenger injuries seems to be totally lacking. As with ‘2’ above there have been reports that body parts were found at the accident site some six months after the accident. Such lack of care and respect is even more unacceptable and suggests a rushed and inadequate search and subsequent investigation.
5. There seem to be several CVR transcripts, all of different lengths; I have not seen an explanation for this. Furthermore it is stated that: ‘The sound quality in the 1st and 2nd tracks is satisfactory, and unsatisfactory in the 3rd track (area mike) with a high level of noises.’ Equipment is available in many investigation laboratories to filter out many such noises so that useful information of cockpit actions and the initial impact, etc can be obtained. No attempt to do this seems to have been made.
It seems to me likely that a closer study of the reports and of other available evidence will unearth further deficiencies in the investigation and/or reporting of this accident, I would thus strongly recommend and support a further investigation of all aspects of this accident.
A. Frank Taylor, 21 July 2015
About the author:
Frank Taylor, BSc, CEng, FRAeS, FEI, FISASI
Frank Taylor joined de Havillands as a post-graduate apprentice in 1957. He stayed there, working mainly on the fuel systems of the Comet 4, the Trident and the 125 executive jet until 1962 and then worked for Flight Refueling at the time that Germany was re-establishing its aircraft industry and thus was involved in the design of several aircraft fuel systems including the A300 and the VTOL Dornier Do31. He joined the College of Aeronautics, Cranfield in 1967 as Lecturer in Aircraft Systems.
His interests spread from fuel through fire, crash-worthiness and survival to accidents investigation and prevention and to airline crisis management. Until his retirement in 2001 he was Director of the Cranfield Aviation Safety Centre and since then he has become a consultant to Rti Ltd, London and a Visiting Fellow at Cranfield University.
He has worked with the AAIB on several accidents including the Manchester B737 and the Lockerbie B747. From 1990 to 1994 he was a member of the Technical Commission re-investigating the 1980 Ustica DC9 accident and more recently he has worked on trajectory analysis of the wreckage of the Air India B747 that broke up south of Ireland in 1985 and crashworthiness/survival aspects of the SIA B747 that crashed on take-off in Taiwan in 2000.
The trip to Smolensk was expected to highlight Russia finally admitting culpability in the massacre, after long having blamed it on the Germans, an atrocity they had tried to conceal for over 70 years.
As for the reception committee, it had different ideas. Putin wasn’t looking forward to such an occasion. Into this poisonous reception brew was President Kaczynski’s well-known public criticism of Moscow and Putin, a habit that has ended the lives of others within Russia – and abroad. A few discouraging Russian requirements – that Kaczynski could not attend in any official capacity – did not halt the Poles. Kaczynski would go anyway on non-official, “personal” business. To Russians, such a distinction would be meaningless, not lessening the possible international excoriation of such an event. A problem ripe for a modern, Russian solution: a tragic, ‘natural’ accident.
Remigiusz Mus, the flight engineer on Yak-40 whose landing immediately preceded PLF 101 and whose testimony implicated the Russian flight controllers, died of suicide.
This rounds out the death of the entirety of key witnesses whose testimonies could prove that the flight controllers bore at least partial responsibility for the mysterious crash that killed the Polish President Lech Kaczynski and 95 others near Smolensk, Russia, on April 10, 2010.
Suicide. So says the Polish Prosecutors office under the administration of Donald Tusk, Bronislaw Komorowski, and the Civic Platform party (Platforma Obywatelska, PO) - the people who came out on top following the disaster of Flight PLF 101. The position of the Prosecutors office is that the autopsy indicated death by hanging with no defensive wounds and and alcohol level of one permille (.01%).
General Konstantin Anatolyevich Morev, chief of the Federal Security Services (FSB), successor to KGB, office in Tver, who interviewed the Russian flight controllers, died at the end of August 2011. His body was found in his office. The official cause of death was a self-inflicted gunshot wound from his service revolver.
Not a single member of the Special 36th Aviation Transportation Regiment who testified before the Poland’s Military Prosecutor’s office said anything disparaging about the crew of the TU-154 or General Andrzej Błasik. To the contrary, the sworn testimonies of the deposed airmen praised the late Air Force commander and the crew for their professionalism.
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