Pilot error 'possible' cause of Smolensk disaster

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Pilot error 'possible' cause of Smolensk disaster

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Pilot error has emerged as a possible reason for the crash which killed the Polish President, his wife and several high-ranking government officials.

Experts say the pilot of the president’s ageing Tupolev 154 should never have attempted a landing in poor visibility at the Smolensk airfield.

The Soviet medium-range trijet airliner was designed in the mid-1960s.

Euronews aviation specialist Giovanni Magi explains: “The Tupolev 154 and the Smolensk military air base are not equipped for landings in zero visibilty conditions.

“Trying an approach several times on the same airport in poor visibility, which it appears, is what happened in Smolensk, is not normal procedure. Far from it, it’s an operation pilots are warned to avoid.

“Flight planning deems it compulsory to embark carrying enough fuel to reach an alternate airport.

“Insisting on multiple approaches and probably descending below the minimum height required to avoid obstacles may be a sign the captain was under pressure to avoid a detour which would have inconvenienced his VIP passengers.

“If the technique was employed it’s almost certain have contributed to the catastrophe.”

Crash investigators at the scene have recovered the black box flight recorder which, it is hoped, will throw new light on the cause of the crash.