I am following this thread with great interest. Seems you guys dig down to the bare facts and are getting closer to the core cause of the crash.
It has been made public this afternoon that the records from the crew cabin revealed the pilots knew they were are going to crash about 3-5 secs before the impact, with assumption of a speed of 150-180 m/sec.
This would make a distance of max 900 mts (my calculation) before the impact and could possible be more less when they did hit the first tree (?).
Being no pilot, I would assume realising only 3-5 sec before impact is scary late and would indicate the pilot was convinced their heading was OK almost till impact.
An opinion of a Russian pilot. (translated)
"The reason may be in the lay-out of the terrain. TU was on course 267-268, to the left from the axis by only 50-55m at the distance of a 1,000 m from the butt-end of the stripe. Had tangage +1...+2. Which means was rising. Where does it follow from? From the trees cut. One, the birch, was cut h=12...13m H=238m (above the sea level), the second, by the road, was cut h=5...6m at height H=249m. The distance btw them 270,, that is little enough for the crew to have time to make any sharp maneuvres. The crew simply didn't know or lost out of attention that the stripe is practically (if to move from the E) located at an elevation, and had lowered much lower than the glissade. The butt-end of the stripe H=253m. This is all on the base of GE and it lies by height not more than 1%, and this is in the worst cases. At the distance over 1,000m from the stripe they have, possibly, sat down even lower, due to even lesser height above the sea-level of the Eastern slope. "
Anyone know if the -154 avionics update included GPS? If so then would not an LNAV/VNAV approach been safer? Mind you since the CIS is not WGS-84 that may have put them in the weeds anyway! As to QFE/ QNH... when in Rome etc springs to mind. Fly meters and QFE.
It easier to see situation on this map. I have added distance from the tree that was first to be hit, and then elevation, in meters. First point (first tree) is at elevation 237m. Final breakdown was at elevation 257m. Second road and the runaway are at 253m. Trees at the second road, although on the higher terrain, were cut much higher than the first tree. If we add elevation difference, it means that they, despite first hit, were still climbing. They gained in absolute height some 20 - 30 meters. It is independent proof that the motors were still operational. It was very, very near thing. One second earlier, and they would be OK.
A bit more precise data and calculation. I have used Goggle Earth distance and elevation information. Goggle data errors should not be significant because I am using only the difference of that data for nearby points. Reference points were established according to Picasa composite and other available pictures. We are comparing what Picasa composite has called point 1 and point 7. In point 1, if we assume reasonable height for that fence (1.2 m), then the height of that tree is now 4.2 meters. According to Goggle, terrain elevation at that point is 238m. So, the first tree cutting point is at 238+4=242m elevation. Dirt road in picture 7 is at elevation 250m. If the man in red 1.8m tall, then all trees in that picture were cut at 7.2m height above the level of the road. Which means that trees were cut at 250+7=257m. That means that in, approximately, 295m of horizontal distance we have increase in elevation of 257-242=15m, or 5% climb.
Last edited by PaleBlueDot; 15th Apr 2010 at 06:05.
Google translator, slightly polished up, from the Russsian forum:
Rarely speak at the forum, but then grieved. So many put forward the most featured version, a shot from the satellite for me personally, put things in order. I do not know if there is Instrument landing system, or just a drive, and maybe the crew once used to call a satellite navigation - it does not matter. The plane was on the glide path, PF controlled flight to about CDF. At CDF captain began to look for land. I'm not talking about the reasons behind it, I'm talking about elementary incompetence. And no doubt the skills of captain makes him a small plaque in general, and on the Tu-154 - obviously, grossly inadequate.
To master the piloting of such a complex aircraft as the Tu-154, is required considerable flight time. I came to the Tu-154 at the age of 35 years, with a total 9000 hours of flight time on the three types of aircraft, each of them I flew as the captain, and still the first year was very, very difficult. I flew as the second pilot, 1500 hours, and only then became the commander of the aircraft. And all the older pilots in one voice telling me: fear, fear of the first thousand hours of command in the new type! If it will appear to you, that you are familiar with this aircraft throughout - do not believe it! Later I saw many times the truth of those warnings and then I also warned the young. And this applies to any new pilots for the aircraft type.
The flight killed a pilot was about 3500 hours (according to his father - 1930 hours), one part of it flown on the Yak-40, part (if you believe the media) as a FO (!) Tu-154, and then somehow became the commander, and (if, again, to believe the media) as PIC on the Tu he had only 200 hours. And this half-educated (albeit talented) was entrusted to carry the president! And the military pilot somewhere to gain experience in the most complex operations in the flying ship, on imperfect systems similar to the one installed in Smolensk? And in general - the experience of flight in adverse weather conditions? And where is the experience gathered over the years, hundreds of complex approaches to different airports. Where and when he gathered them? As a result, he made a self-confident, school, simple error: He was searching the ground below the decision height. And found it.
How to help the captain? This aircraft can not fly alone. Data for the crew, too, suggest the doubt. Navigator (if you believe the media) was produced from the school mechanic. Weather conditions were just deadly: I would, in all my experience, do not dare to go for landing in the fog 400, but he went there blind and stupid. Ground control had nothing to do with it. The head ATC crew gave advance information about the bad weather, gave advice on caring for an alrternate. He controlled the decline and warned of the flight below the glide path. But flying is done by the pilot!
Do not believe the words: "the pilot of the first class," the best among the best, "chief pilot of the president."
Facts from official webpage of 36 SPLT: 3528 hrs total 2937 on type
As mentioned before, PLFs are flying mostly around the country, both in service and in training. So I believe any 100 hrs would mean similar (if not greater) number of landings. Some of them (airports) are not equipped with to-date equipment (CASA case, anyone?). In fact, only the civilian airports are equipped with ILS (plus EPSY airport, which is in fact now non controlled, I believe, staffed only for training and when required). So, I believe with plenty of landings (thousands) and - even considering the probability - at least some of them in poor conditions, their experience cannot be evaluated as "inadequate". I believe what happened is much more a difference between civilian and military pilots when considering acceptable risk, plus pressure, leading to pilots error (approach below minimas). Lack of information about strip and/or approach might be contributing factor as well, of course, if it turns out to be true.
If that is the case, one could wonder perhaps, when the radar was last calibrated/checked ?
If this was indeed a PAR & not a 2NDB procedure the hairs on the back of my neck are getting tingly.
The experience of the preceeding, successful approaches would be interesting; if the approach was in any way hairy or innaccurate due to instrumentation or human deficiency I'm sure the press would have dug that up by now.
To open up a closed airfield within 3 days and bringing it up to a minimum amount of safety status, which would qualify it for any kind of instrument approach in weather conditions other than special VFR seems to be out of question.
Its definitely out of the western world, and i canīt imagine it would be suitable to any military or civil operation except in war.
So whowever authorized such operation will and should be in deep trouble.
Facts from official webpage of 36 SPLT: 3528 hrs total 2937 on type
can we trust these numbers? the ac had only some 5000hours itself for all the time it was in Poland, it was flown for long time by other crews, so how the pilot could have accumulated 2000hrs on type? i am sincerely sorry for the crew but it seems like a cover-up operation by some s****d military who has allowed relatively not prepared pilot to fly this ac on this very specific flight.