Saturday, April 10, 2010

Polish president and many VIPs die in Tu-154 crash at Smolensk, Russia

by B. N. Sullivan

A Tupolev Tu-154 operated by the Polish Air Force crashed this morning while attempting to land at Smolensk Airport (XUBS) in western Russia. On board the aircraft were the President of Poland, his wife, and many other Polish VIPs, including high-ranking government and military officials. The exact number of souls on board is still unclear at this time, but early reports range from 88 to 132. There were no survivors.

Weather was said to be very foggy. Early (though unofficial) reports say that the accident happened after a missed approach. The aircraft reportedly hit trees while attempting a go-around. Photos of the accident scene show the aircraft wreckage in many pieces.

President Lech Kaczynski and a large delegation were traveling from Warsaw to Russia to participate in events commemorating the 70th anniversary of the Katyn masssacre near the city of Smolensk.

This is a huge tragedy for the people of Poland, and I offer them my sincere condolences.

UPDATE: reports that Russia's Interstate Aviation Committee (MAK) has confirmed the identity of the aircraft, as follows:
The Tu-154, serial number 90A-837, is aircraft 101 of the Polish air force presidential division, 36 Specjalny Pulk Lotnictwa Transportowego (36 SPLT).
The progression of events directly preceding the accident are still uncertain. The Aviation Herald reports the following:
There are conflicting reports, that the airplane may have gone around three times with the crew considering to divert to Minsk (Belarus, 170nm west of Smolensk) or Moscow (Russia, 200nm east of Smolensk) before attempting their fatal 4th approach. Other reports say, that the crew was adivsed by air traffic control in Belarus to not continue to Smolensk due to fog, but to divert to Minsk and later, after hand off to Russian ATC, Russian Air Traffic Controllers recommended to divert to Moscow, the crew however continued to Smolensk. Other reports say, that the airplane was holding over Smolensk which was mistaken as attempts to approach the airfield and go-arounds.
Russian authorities have said that the aircraft's flight data recorders have been recovered from the wreckage. has posted several photos of the accident aircraft "taken in happier times."

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