Lack of training key reason for Smolensk plane crash


The Commission investigating the causes of the catastrophe at Smolensk, produced a critical report detailing the reasons for the tragedy, in which the Polish president Lech Kaczynski , his wife and 94 other senior officials died.


The report’s conclusions focus criticism on the training of plane’s crew members, highlighting deficiencies and a long term issue of poor management and supervision for members of air crews. The report heavily criticises the 36th Special Air Transport Regiment, which lacked training facilities and instructors, resulting in pilots being continually overworked and insufficiently trained.


Industry experts have claimed that it would have been quite possible to avert disaster if proper training and guidance had been provided from the outset. An example of this, cited by the investigating committee, is that the flight crew should not have used the automatic pilot system on approach to Siewernyj airport, as the necessary technology to interact with the automatic pilot was not installed. The flight crew were apparently aware of the absence of this technology but persisted in their attempts to use the automatic pilot system anyway.


Minister Jerzy Miller, who led the investigation, said the crash was a consequence of poor crew preparation and training.


A Key recommendation in the final report highlights the need for an improvement in training:


“Draw up new guidelines for instructor pilot training and certification. Inflight instructor pilot training should be proceeded by a centralized theoretical training ending with an exam. The Air Force Commander should be the authorized body for awarding instructor pilot certificates.

” Draw up and implement such theoretical and practical training curriculum for the Tu-154M crews which takes into account the current aircraft systems and involves training on simulators. Introduce periodic lectures and training workshops on CRM, MCC and ORM in specialized training facilities.”


The implementation of the report’s recommendations has already begun. According to the Polish newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza, the 36th Special Air Transport has been dissolved and 13 top officers, who had something to do with training and supervision of the air force, dismissed. The 36th Special Air Transport will be replaced by a new special group responsible for VIP transport.


The next priority, according to Commander-in-Chief of the Polish Air Force, Gen. Lech Majewski, is to popularise training on simulators. It should be a standard in the Polish Army that pilots spend thirty per cent of their training on simulators. Further changes are likely.


(Read the full report here)



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  1. This report was elaborated by the Russian commission with very little cooperation from the Polish side. The Polish side did not have an access to the original records stored in all the three black boxes. The wreck of the airplane was not made available to the Polish side until now. The strange and irresponsible behaviour of the Russian ground staff at the Sievernyj Airport was not properly investigated. The Polish side could not make the dissections of the bodies of the President, his Wife and other persons who died in the catastrophe. The statement that the crew was insisting on using the automatic pilot is weakly justified. In general, the report can be questionned and has been questionned by independent researchers and the political opposition in many points.