Smolensk Crash Facts Versus “Armchair Experts”
Published May 19, 2018
Written by Danish Crash Investigator MSc. Glenn A. Jorgensen, ISASI Member
Member of the Polish Government Committee Re-Investigating the Smolensk Crash
The Smolensk committee recently presented a Technical Report showing the results of research on the airplane crash of April 10, 2010 in Smolensk. The evidence presented by the committee is repeatedly confirmed, forming a coherent chain of events and is of key importance in determinig the causes and course of the disaster. Meanwhile, a group of "armchair experts" for several years has not only made basic mistakes in criticizing the work of the committee while ignoring the strength of evidence, but also presents its own, completely inconsistent hypothesis in contradiction to hard core evidence.
The Polish authorities recently requested the committee reinvestigating the Smolensk crash to publish a technical report describing some of its work and results. So it did, with focus on presenting hard core evidence of great importance to the case. Evidence not in agreement with the (Russian) MAK and (Polish) Miller hypothesis, and completely left out by the MAK and Miller investigations evidence of Russian manipulations and destruction of evidence.
On this matter there is no other possibility than to declare the Miller (and MAK) investigation(s) for void, in same way the Russian Katyn lie immediately was invalid when the proper knowledge came to the public eye.
One can be surprised by looking at the statements of the group - please excuse the term - "armchair experts" in this matter.
Interestingly, the criticism of evidence and the results of the committee's research based on the evidence are accompanied by the unrestricted presentation of completely incoherent and non-evidence-based hypotheses1,2,3. I am referring to film director Grzegorz Braun, Professor Marek Czachor and Professor Paweł Artymowicz, who lacks specialist knowledge in the field of aviation investigations, and Maciej Lasek, who should be a professional investigator, but seems to act against elementary professional standards. The latest hypotheses of Marek Czachor ("remote hijacking" of the aircraft) may be suitable for a sensational novel, but it is contradictory to most of the hard core evidence in this matter.
Because I am forced to face many false statements about the investigation, I will allow myself to demonstrate some examples of misinformation methods (not to use the word manipulation) that lead to false or unauthorized conclusions. I would like to believe that these people act in good faith - especially in relation to Marek Czachor or Grzegorz Braun. However, since Marek Czachor and Paweł Artymowicz have professorial titles, and Maciej Lasek should have appropriate education as an investigator of aviation accidents, it is difficult to imagine that they do not have basic knowledge that is in conflict with their public statements.
"Armchair Experts" versus the left passenger door driven into the ground
The left passenger door of the Tu-154M was found pushed one meter deep into the ground at the very beginning of the main crash site. Marek Czachor states: "It is not difficult to imagine that several dozen tons of rolling weight is able to push the entrance door from the plane one meter into the ground." I am sure that Mr. Czachor from his armchair is able to imagine many different things and similar speculations have been expressed by Lasek and Artymowicz.
Figure 1. The left passenger door no.2 being dug out by hand from its penetration 1 meter into the deeper solid soil at the very beginning of the main crash site.
Nothing like such has to my knowledge ever been reported in other similar airplane crashes. It is a good example of how the gentlemen misinform by selectively choosing the pieces of evidence convenient for their story. They leave out the fact, that the door was found 1 meter into the ground completely detached from the solid and strong frame of the fuselage. The frame it only a split of a second earlier was interlocked with. By itself this fact is evidence of an explosion. Had it broken off as a result of hitting the ground, some of the frame should have been found together with the door. The location of the door 1m into the ground is further evidence of explosion and a side bonus, because it explains the position of the aircraft when the first main fuselage explosion occurred. They leave out the fact, that inside at the upper left corner of the door behind the inner metal cover were human remains and they leave out the fact that a human hand and part of the underarm was found at the side of the door in the ground both very difficult to explain in a regular "crash to the ground" scenario.
They leave out the fact, that the fuselage was 6-7m above the ground when passing the position the door is found buried, and also for this reason could not push the door into the ground. This is easily seen due to an undamaged tree (see "Z" on Figure 2) just 8 meters before the aircraft wing and tail made ground contact. This tree was located on the exact path of the aircraft and because it was completely undamaged it determines the minimum height when passing over this tree.
Figure 2. The 6-7m tall tree marked "Z" on the direct flight path from Kutuzova Street was not damaged providing evidence that the aircraft flew over it, concluding the airplane was in air when the door was shot to the ground. Note the short distance (8m) from the tree to the ground trace of the tail (marked with green ellipse). The left passenger door nr. 2 was found only a few meters further to the left of the trace.
This conclusion is confirmed by the shape and distances between the ground trace of the left wing and tail as these correlate with the geometry of the TU-154M only in such position in air. Additional confirmation comes from the final flight management system recordings storing data when its power is lost. Additional confirmation again comes from the fact, that the fuselage section between the wing box and tail had both sides blown outwards and nothing underneath (See Figure 3), which by US Sandia National Laboratories is associated with in-air opening of the fuselage4.
Figure 3. The rear fuselage section was found upside down with both left and right sides outwards, which is a clear sign of high internal pressure when the fuselage was still above ground.
Other facts completely neglected by MAK and Miller teams and "armchair experts"
The conclusion of explosion in the fuselage sending the door to the ground is further confirmed by the sudden abrupt stop in the ground traces made by the left wing and tail (see Figure 5). It's confirmed by the sudden outwards sweep of the tail producing a distinct side push of soil and a clear edge of damage to the root of the left horizontal stabilizer (see Figure 4) and forces the tail to the ground which is confirmed by the trace shown in figure 2. (The sweep is related to the gyro moment of the running engines once the tail section is detached). The deformation and rotation of the pivoted hinges of the left passenger door provide again other evidence indicating the door was forced outwards by a sudden high internal pressure.
Figure 4. Picture to the left shows the southern ground trace made by the tail. Note the distinct side push of soil at the area marked "A". The pictures to the middle and right show the line of damage of the root of the left horizontal stabilizer most likely when making the outwards sweep producing the push of soil at the area marked "A".
The conclusion of explosion is confirmed by the fact that small body parts including human intestines from the passengers sitting near the left passenger door were found at the beginning of the crash site even before the fuselage hit the ground, whereas the bodies ended up far away. It's again confirmed by the fact that clothes were completely or nearly completely torn of 35 occupants. This is very abnormal in
the case of a low speed flight into terrain. I encourage the "experts" to show anything similar in flight history ever has been reported for speeds below 280km/hr, but it is a common phenomenon known from the field of explosives.
Another fact of importance completely neglected by the "experts" and MAK and Miller teams is the large number of occupants highly fragmentized. In particular 12 of the occupants sitting closest to the left passenger door nr. 2 (found buried 1m in the ground). Through many years of crash experience such fragmentation is by the scientific community associated with impact levels above 350G. (350G means that the body would experience an increase of 350 times its own weight). The "armchair experts" do not explain how it is possible that the impact of the aircraft at a slight angle towards the soft soil at a relatively low VERTICAL speed could have caused such large destruction to aircraft and occupants. I personally asked Mr. Maciej Lasek this question in 2015 at the International Conference in Augsburg5 (ISASI), but unfortunately he had no answer, turned his back and walked away.
Figure 5. The 6-7m tall tree marked "Z" on the direct flight path was not damaged dictating the aircraft flew over it. The shadow of the tree can be seen on the satellite photo. Confirmation of explosion is seen by the abrupt halt of the wing and tail ground traces in the aircraft position where the fuselage is right above the location the door is driven into the ground.
"Armchair experts" versus 20.000 to 60.000 Fragments of Aircraft
It is not the speed itself that is dangerous to the human body; it is how quickly speed changes (called acceleration). Imagine you are driving down the highway with 130km/hr and you slam the brakes to stop as quickly as possible. The time from you push the brake pedal till the car stops could be about 10 seconds, and the distance needed to get rid of all the kinetic energy of the car and passengers could be about 180 meters. If instead of slamming the brakes you were unlucky and hit a massive and solid wall, you would experience the same change in speed from 130km/hr to zero, but the time it could take would be less than 0.1 second instead of 10 seconds. This would be the difference between life and death. When hitting the wall all the energy is absorbed over the small distance of crumbling the car (say 1.2 meter). The acceleration in the case of brake slamming would be less than 0.5G and in the case of hitting the wall could be more than 50G. An acceleration of 50G means the body would feel 50 times its own weight.
From experience we know, that humans in general can tolerate up to 9G-15G without life threatening damage, where accelerations above 350G will cause a high fragmentation of the human body, because the tissue and bones are unable to carry such large accelerations.
You will notice from the examples above, that the longer the distance over which the speed can be slowed down, the smaller the acceleration, just compare the 180 meter distance producing less than 0.5G to the 1.2 meter distance producing more than 50G.
One method of disinformation used by the armchair experts is to mix the horizontal and vertical velocities or energies together. This is a complete no-go in proper crash investigations. Such mixing approach would imply that it would be just as good to hit perpendicular to the surface as parallel to the surface.
A good crash investigator knows that for the case of flying into flat terrain (or water) it is the vertical speed and not the horizontal speed that kills. Why? Because unless hitting a solid wall or mountain side the horizontal speed can normally be slid off over the terrain over a long distance similar to the case of using the car brakes above. In the case of vertical speed the distance will be much shorter similar to the example of hitting the massive wall.
Figure 6. Horizontal speed and vertical speed (descent) determine the angle of impact. The airplanes in figures A) and B) have same speed, but different vertical and horizontal velocities. The green line shows the same velocity value, only that for airplane A) it is horizontal, and for airplane B) it is vertical velocity. We prefer the small angle approach A) because this allows for the energy to be reduced over a long distance and time and therefore results in small tolerable accelerations.
So when the aircraft is allowed to get rid of its kinetic energy over a longer distance the accelerations are similarly lower and less dangerous. In the energy absorbing process vegetation and trees can even be beneficial energy absorbers. For small angle impacts as in the Smolensk case, the distance of horizontal sliding over terrain is typically magnitudes larger than the distance pushing vertical into the terrain.
Everyone who has experienced a landing knows the quality of a good horizontal (parallel to surface) touch down in comparison with a vertical drop. If in doubt just compare case A) and B) of Figure 6 and consider which airplane you would prefer to be in.
The ski jumper is another good example why it is so important to have an eye on the velocity directions. The jumper can leave the ramp with more than 110km/hr then do a free fall of 75m and survive 6,7 . Why? Because he lands nearly parallel to the downwards hill surface and this allows him to slide off his kinetic energy rather than smash to the ground. Actually without the forward speed when making ground contact the jumper would not survive the vertical speed of 65km/hr. The angle with the hill surface for the jumper is similar to the angle of impact of the aircraft in the Smolensk case, and the jumper is without a protective fuselage. Think about that for a moment.
Figure 7. A ski jumper can do a free vertical fall of 75m and survive because of the large forward speed allowing him to make ground contact nearly parallel to the hill surface. Despite the kinetic energy would be smaller without the forward speed he would not survive such fall. This is another good example why the velocity directions are important.
"Armchair experts" have earlier mentioned, that another aircraft which crashed in similar conditions was fragmented into a large number of pieces, and they give the example of Swiss Air8 flight 111. This aircraft hit nearly inverted into water with a speed of 560km/hr in a 20deg nose down attitude. That means the vertical speed was about 190km/hr and water acts like concrete at such vertical speeds. For the Smolensk case the vertical speed was below 43km/hr. In other words the Swiss Air 111 hit with about (190/43)2 ≈ 20 times larger vertical kinetic energy pr. unit mass than compared to the Smolensk case. Not at all similar cases. No surprise it was smashed to pieces and a quite different story from the one the "experts" want to give impression of.
In Professor Czachor's latest article based on a discussion of a plane crash at Hungtington, he even takes the misinformation one step further, presenting his home made correlation between aircraft speed and G-impact. This is such pure nonsense, that I hope only a few 1st year high school students would approve, and by which we all should die during the next landing. Certainly not worthy for a professor.
Figure 8. Czachor's home made pure nonsense correlation between aircraft speed and G-impact. The G-impact experienced by the aircraft and/or occupants will depend on many factors not encountered for here and Czachor mixes together vertical and horizontal energies. If his scale refers to the aircraft his correlation would in the Smolensk case demand, the airplane would go from 280km/hr to a full stop in less than 4 meters - clearly not the case.
In addition he claims the G-impact during the Huntington accident9 was 50G and shows the speed as low as 210km/hr, something never concluded by the crash investigators. The speed was 240km/hr and maybe Czachor mixed the 50G test condition of the 1st pilot's altimeter? Furthermore Czachor presents the photo of the wreckage after it was severely damaged by a post-crash fire, but even though a fireman is pictured in the photo, and the NTSB report on page 12 clearly states: "Most of the fuselage was melted or reduced to powder like substance; however several large pieces were scattered throughout the burned area", Czachor completely "forgets" to mention to the reader about the severe fire - another example of misinformation. Here apparently with the goal the reader will believe such amount of debris and destruction was a result of even less G-impact than seen for the Smolensk case.
Instead he could have shown the case of the intentional crash into the hard dessert ground in Mexico in 201210 of a Boeing 727 aircraft. This aircraft hit with about half the vertical kinetic energy pr. unit mass in comparison with the Smolensk case, but into hard soil rather than soft muddy ground as was present in Smolensk, so all-in-all rather comparable. In the Smolensk case the aircraft hit partly inverted with the left wing and tail making the first ground contact and thereby absorbing some kinetic energy by the demolition process of wing and tail. On the other hand one can argue that hitting on the side of the aircraft (as in the Smolensk case) will give a different reaction than hitting from the bottom as for the 727 in Mexico. The future work of the investigation committee will accurately research this particular issue.
Figure 9. Czachor's example of 50G impact. Unfortunately he "forgets" to inform that the majority of the damage is caused by a post-crash fire and that the aircraft hit into sloped terrain.
Figure 10. Example of destruction of a B727 similar type aircraft as the TU-154M hitting the hard ground with 225km/hr and an angle of inclination of about 7deg very similar to the 9deg inclination in the Smolensk case.
By the nonsense diagram of Czachor the occupants of the 727 should experience 60G but of course did not. The "dummy occupants" in the front experienced up to 12G and the ones in the back only 6G. The investigators concluded the few occupants in the front might have been killed and the rest would easily have survived and most could probably even walk away by themselves. Note also the aircraft broke into two major pieces as one would expect.
"Armchair experts" versus Facts of the Left Wing Tip
When Czachor, Artymowicz and Lasek completely avoid going into any detail regarding the explosive signatures and classic signs of explosion seen on the left wing tip it is no coincidence. In the forensic literature for crash investigators an explosive signature is defined as a feature that can only be explained by an explosion11,12,13. The more than 450 deg curled edges of the wing tip are classical examples of such (See Figure 11). In addition the axes of the curls are nearly parallel to the direction of flight. ). The conclusion of explosion is furthermore confirmed by a large number of characteristic signs of explosion. Three of the most experienced European experts have independently of each other reached this same conclusion. Based on thousands of photographs, the commission has performed a precise 3D reconstruction of this wing section. The image of the destruction of fragments of the place of detachment of the wing tip denies that an object passed through this place, but it correlates well with the action of high internal pressure (explosion).
Figure 11. The curled edges of up to 450deg are classical signatures of explosion as illustrated in the forensic literature regarding the investigation of explosions confirmed by three independent experts.
Following the cut of the wing by a linear explosive device any created number of fragments of the thin sheet metal ribs and skin will spread out in space due to the following aerodynamic forces. It is a fact, that such debris was present 40m to the one side and 20m to the other side of the Bodin birch tree. It is also a fact that debris was found hanging loosely on the branches of the Bodin birch tree. The investigative committee has by experiments found, that such debris starting with the speed of the aircraft can end hanging loosely on branches, if it is launched about 80m to 100m before its final resting position.
However Czachor's effort to explain how it could be possible to find such debris on the branches of the tree (he forgets to explain about the ones found to either side) deserves a comment, because this illustrates another method of misinformation. Czachor shows that a piece of debris detached from the wing during a collision experiment done in 196414 flies upwards. His idea is that such debris created at the birch tree could then fall down and settle on the birch tree branches. However he chooses to align the two pictures side by side and cuts away the tail of the aircraft that could serve as a reference, thereby giving the impression he wants (see Figure 12). The reality is that the piece he points to does not only fly up, but in addition flies more than 40m forward with nearly same speed as the aircraft itself, which easily is seen when aligning the pictures correctly (see Figure 13).
Figure 12. By cutting away the tail of the aircraft and aligning pictures taken by a moving camera side by side one gets the impression that the highlighted part mainly flies upwards. In reality it nearly continues forward with the same speed as the aircraft, see next figure. (The change of background profile of the mountain reveals the move of the camera.)
Figure 13. The same frames as shown by Czachor properly aligned by the background profile of the mountain. Now the forward movement of the circled debris is obvious, and the illusion of the part exhibiting an only upwards movement disappears. Note how the debris keeps the forward speed and its distance to the tail as reference point.
Artymowicz and Lasek will explain that bended plate parts from the wing or debris of wood found at the edge of the fractured surface of the wing tip is proof that the wing hit the birch tree. This demonstrates their lack of investigative skills. Imagine a person shot in the head with a bullet who then falls into a tree and scraps his shoulder on the way down. Finding the bullet in the head can explain the fall and scrap on the shoulder, finding the scraped shoulder cannot explain the bullet in the head. The classic signatures of explosion in the wing of the TU-154M in Smolensk is such "bullet", wood debris and bent plates are the "scraped shoulder". By the way such a bended plate part similar in shape to the one Lasek holds as his "proof" was produced during experiments done by the investigation committee cutting an aluminum wing with explosives, and I can personally witness no birch tree was present.
Movie director Grzegorz Braun (GB) argued in 201615 (before the exhumations), that one can not be sure, that the delegation of VIP's including the president and the first lady actually left Warsaw, and if they did, one can not be certain their TU-154M crashed in Smolensk. Nor can one be certain they actually died. This is a different kind of misinformation, because the theory takes advantage of the feelings of those people, who by their heart wanted to believe this disaster was not true, feeding their subconscious with some hope in all the darkness.
Now after exhumations prove the honorable people are dead, GB still claims the aircraft found in 60,000 pieces in Smolensk could be another.
Mr. Braun is a very talented movie director. During his carrier he must have experienced how difficult and time consuming it is to set the stage in correct detailed way. Now just imagine having to place 60,000 parts in correct order. Some weighing tones, some tiny small. Some in trees, some deep in the ground, and some on the ground. Imagine needing to cut the trees near Kutuzova Street and spread the tree debris in correct order. Start the fires and place the bodies. Dig the ground traces in correct way. Cut the trees near and around the crash site. Spread the mud on standing trees. Mix bodies, trees and airplane parts on top of each other. And doing all this without creating public attention, and with only a few hours to accomplish the task - including working in the dark night. Photos and satellite photos show none of this was done on the 9th of April 2010. It is a pity that Grzegorz Braun's talent and imagination were not focused on the field of film art.
A few years ago, Mr. Lasek was obliged by the Polish court to answer a specific question, whose meaning was: How is it possible that an airplane hitting the ground at such a small angle, with such small vertical speed, breaks into tens of thousands of pieces, passengers experience huge overloads and the aircraft does not leave a crater? Is the effect of absurd theories and lies not fitting either to the picture of events nor the laws of nature, that Lasek is unable to answer this simple question till this day?
Without going into any detail Artymowicz will claim that the work done by a highly qualified independent American institution approved by FAA as the only in the world to perform such work is wrong, and that he knows how to do it better. Another example is their description of one of the world's most prominent crash investigators, Mr. Frank Taylor.
Frank Taylor’s multi-faceted career in the field of air accidents investigation spans more than 50 years.
During his directorship of the Cranfield Aviation Safety Centre, he led the development of investigator training for the University, oversaw the training of all AAIB (Air Accidents Investigation Branch UK) investigators, and hundreds of investigators from countries around the world. The Cranfield training program is regarded world wide as the world's best and by which the majority of crash investigators are educated. I have meet crash investigator colleges from every corner of the planet during my Master of Science studies at Cranfield all expressing great respect for the program.
He has acted as a consultant to the AAIB and other State Accident Investigation Authorities on many investigations. Notable cases include; the Pan Am B747 at Lockerbie, the British Air Tours B737 at Manchester, the Air India B747 south of Ireland, and the Singapore Airlines B747 at Taipei. He has been chairman of the Air Safety Group, chairman of the Aviation Working Party of Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety, member of Air Safety Working Party of the European Transport Safety Council, and specialist adviser to the House of Commons Transport Committee's inquiry into Aircraft Cabin Safety. Fellowships include the Royal Aeronautical Society, Energy Institute, and International Society of Air Safety Investigators. In 1998, he was awarded the Jerome F Lederer Award for outstanding contributions to technical excellence in accident investigation mainly for his research into approach, landing and take-off accidents involving spilled fuel and/or fire. He is well respected amongst the society as an excellent and honest crash investigator with very high level of integrity.
By Artymowicz, Lasek and their likes Frank Taylor "has no qualifications to speak about the issues"! I smile and wonder what other qualifications than revealed here Artymowicz, Czachor and Lasek might have?
The author holds his first MSc within fluid dynamics from the Technical University of Denmark / he is educated as Crash Investigator and completing his second MSc within Crash Investigations at Cranfield University/ an active pilot (PPL) for 35 years / member of the International Society of Air Safety Investigators (ISASI) and an expert of the Polish committee for the re-investigation of the Smolensk crash.
4. Wiesław K. Binienda „Analiza Dynamiczna Zniszczenia Struktury Samolotu TU-154M W Smolensku 10 Kwietnia 2010”, Materiały Konferencyjne, Konferencja Smolenska I, 2012
8. Report Number A98H0003, Aviation Investigation Report
9. Aircraft Accident Report. Southern Airways, Inc. DC-9, N97S. Tri-State Airport, Huntington, West Virginia, Nov 14, 1970. Raport numer NTSB-AAR-72-11
11. Forensic Investigation of Explosions, Second Edition. Editor Alexander Beveridge. ISBN 9781420087253, 2011
12. V. Ramachandran, A.C. Raghuram, R.V.Krishnan, and S.K. Bhaumik, "Failure Analysis of Engineering Structures: Methodology and Case Histories". National Aerospace Laboratories, Bangalore. ISBN 0-87170-820-5
13. Investigation of an Aircraft Accident by Fractographic Analysis. R.V.Krishnan et. Al. Materials Science Division, National Aeronautical Laboratory, Bangalore 560017, India
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