Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Anger and shame

The two words above probably best sum up my feelings after International (actually run by Russians) Aviation Commitee disclosed its patchy report on the causes of Smolensk air crash.

Polish experts have raised reservations over the report, conceded biased by Poles, as it totally acquits Russian air traffic controllers and puts blame solely on Polish pilots and organisers of the fateful flight.

Needless to say Russian one-sided version was par for the course and I have even got over the grudge I had borne against them. That nation functions in a specific way and we will not change it, but... Polish experts hold out for conceding obvious errors made by Russians, but do not call into question our own faults, which are numerous.

The picture that emerged from the whole report I have flicked through has left me glum.
Drunk general? I have no idea whether he was inebriated, but if it is true, I am absolutely not surprised. This can be forgiven... But the sum of all neglects is terrifying...

The whole touchdown procedure appeared to be a dicey hit-or-miss suicide mission. Airdrome equipment was pitiable if not defective, weather conditions should have precluded any plane from landing there, communication between traffic controllers and crew of Polish plane was worse than poor and information given by air contollers were, to put it mildly, inaccurate...

And the most dejecting part is the overwhelming fear that influence most tragic decision taken that morning. Russian controllers seemed to be afraid to tell Polish pilots openly the should not land there, Polish pilots seemed to be afraid to take a plunge and fly off there. Everyone seemed to apprehend the inevitable diplomatic scandal caused by the refusal to touch down and the fear contributed to appalling inactions on both sides. In the last phase both pilots and air controllers acted as if they were paralysed, their last moves were totally illogical.

Perhaps I will not be a consolation to many of you, but Polish report will be even more severe and may highlight other faults. All we can do now is to learn a lesson from that tragedy to prevent such accidents happening in the future...


Pan Steeva said...

Do you think that part of your relatively neutral reaction is, what I must call, Smolensk fatigue?

If I'd just heard the original furore, accusations and counter accusations, followed then only by (a less domestically politically targeted) Polish government criticism of the draft report, I'd now be looking forward to reading the result and trying to make some sense of it. However, since it has been an unceasing, internal Polish politicised debate going on for month after month, I just don't really want to hear anything any more and will be happy for the whole affair to disappear from the news.

For that reason, thank you very much for your balanced comment: it helps me see a path through the mire that I would otherwise have closed my eyes to.

student SGH said...

I had had enough of the Smolensk case before the report (I added one word that probably best describes my take on it) was published, but now fatigue has turned into wrath. I want this case to be investigated as thoroughly as it is possible and want the whole obfuscation to disappear and no room left for doubts and conjectures.

I gather you know Polish reasonably well, so if you wish to read something taht would send your level of adrenaline up, click on to Toyah - Posłuchaj to do Ciebie on my blogroll.

Two days after writing this post I still cannot come to terms with it...

adthelad said...

In Poland the drink driving limit is 0.2 in the UK 0.8 'promili'(0.02 and 0.08 blood alcohol concentration) - see .
So the roads of Britain are choker block with drink drivers? Bollocks.

General Błasik was a passenger (and not the pilot) in whose blood allegedly 0.6 'promili' were found. But the news that Błasik was drunk has gone out to the world.
This article,593062-Ekspert--Blasik-niekoniecznie-pil-.html clearly shows that the alcohol allegedly found in Błasik could easily be a result of processes that occur in the body post mortem. So, given the 'scrupulous' nature of the Russian investigation, was he 'drunk' or not?

adthelad said...

Oh and the Russian controller wanted to refuse permission to land but was told by superiors to permit the landing approach (despite conditions worsening after the Russian Ił had made 2 unsuccessful attempts). Sources are out there if you want to check.
I've been following this matter day in and day out since the tragedy and, funnily enough, am not suffering from any information fatigue. On the contrary.

p.s. to clarify, my previous note should perhaps have read 'choker block with drunk drivers'


student SGH said...

I know how I feel when the concntration of alcohol in my blood is between 0.02% and 0.08% and even though I am not yet drunk, I would not consider myself sober and would not sit behind the wheel.

And I do know a small concentration of alcohol may be a result of chemical processes going on within the body. Eat a sour apple and wash it down with any juice, let it ferment and be sure alcohol can be found in your blood. General Blasik was nto a pilot so should not enter pilot's cabin at all. And whether he drank on board - if he thought there was nothing wrong in attending such a ceremony under influence it was his business, not ours.

That is why we need recordings of all talks and phone calls from controllers' room, not just the transcripts we have received. Plus we need to have all 'details' and 'contexts' explicated. As well as I would like to know why the controllers were still telling our pilots where they were even after the airplane disappeared from their radars...

toyah said...

@Student SGH
What diplomatic scandal are you talking about? Do you really believe that there is still something that you might call a scandal? After what happened on April 10? After the MAK report? After what we experience every single day? Who, might I ask, is going to fear anything?

student SGH said...


Pleasure to see you pop in here :)

What I called the scandal was what should have happened on 10 April, but unfortunately did not happen, i.e. Russians should have closed the airport and hence make any touchdown attempt impossible for the Polish plane and divert the aircraft to Witebsk. Such a wise decision would be seen as a political move, i.e. a preconceived plot to hamper Polish president's visit. After the fact it is easy to say (as Mr Sasin did) that landing in Witebsk and coming five hours late for the ceremony would not cause any turmoil. The incidents in Georgia were not just made up by hostile media, or were they?

I am afraid we are not on the same wavelength. I've read over my post and I think by adding a few sentences in this comment I've spoken it out. If you wish we can drill it down of course.

PS. Apologies for not turning up yesterday. I'm sure there'll be another opportunity to make up for it.

Best wishes!

toyah said...

You might be right. The wise decision would be seen as a political move, to hamper Polish president's visit. But now the fact is that the unwise decision to let him land is popularly seen as a criminal move to kill him. And the actual question in both cases is: so what, and who cares? And the actual answer is that no-one does and no-one ever did.

student SGH said...


The problem is that we can't turn back the time and check if I'm right. But even scandal and accusations pilots, Russian controllers and superiors of both would have faced for it would have been a reasonable price to pay for saving 96 people's lives.

And because it can be seen as a criminal move, Russian should hand us over all information that would cast a light on what happened in controllers' room. If they shun a confrontation, various theories have a fertile ground to sprout. And I'm actually not surprised they do.

PS. not 'preconceived', but rather 'carefully contrived', sorry for that error, as a teacher you should have corrected me, but thanks for turning a blind eye on it anyway.

toyah said...

Rest assured. I'm not going to discuss your English here in any way.

student SGH said...

In that case by using the wrong word I changed the meaning of the whole sentence, so it wasn't just a minor grammar or spelling error. I have nothing against being corrected - thus at least I can learn

Pan Steeva said...

Thanks for the reference to Toyah, but I heard all of this within a couple of days of the crash.

I have, after all, looked at the report - thanks for the link - and found it interesting that it was not the case that the Russian controllers were "afraid to tell Polish pilots openly the should not land there". The report makes clear that they were not allowed to refuse the landing under Russian rules. That they are not blamed for doing something they weren't allowed to do, seems sensible to me. There is a, however, a recommendation: ... "Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation: take measures to enhance the role and efficiency of state control over flight safety in state aviation and eliminate the shortcomings mentioned in the Report". Isn't the lack of ability of the controller to stop the landing an obvious shortcoming?

Why is it that I keep hearing that there is no acceptance in the report that there was something wrong on the Russian side?

Even the mention of the General's alcohol level, which I had first assumed to have been unnecessary, is placed in an appropriate context - the pressure put on the pilot, leading to mistakes, while the claim that his body would have been too damaged to check is also refuted in the text.

For all I know, the Russians may be liars who would do anything to avoid being criticised, but many Polish comments about the report in the media I now know are lies, based only on the wish to blame the Russians. They had me fooled, for I was convinced, like you, that the controllers were equally to blame for not stopping the landing. It is only now that I know they weren't.

Pan Steeva said...

Sorry, but I missed out a 'not' in there, so I'll put it differently: 'blaming the controllers for not doing what they weren't allowed to do, doesn't seem sensible to me'.