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Polish Government Tu154M crash

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Polish Government Tu154M crash

Old 12th Apr 2010, 08:22
  #341 (permalink)  
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About a half hour before Tu154 crash, russian FSB Il-96 was diverted to Moscow.

New facts (google translate)
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Old 12th Apr 2010, 08:23
  #342 (permalink)  
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So anybody out here who knows the elevation of that airfield and QNH/QFE at time of accident?

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Old 12th Apr 2010, 08:31
  #343 (permalink)  
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After reading through most of the posts, it's surprising that QFE/QNH problem is mentioned only a few times and then quickly forgotten.

Even on the international airports in Russia ATC insist on QFE altitudes, and they are in meters. QNH is available on ATIS or on request but clearances are issued based on QFE altitudes. For crews not regularly flying in Russia it can all be confusing, especially if using NAV charts in feet based on QNH, with QFE altitudes in brackets and conversion tables to meters. And higher elevation airports have large difference between QNH and QFE which can translate into high altitude errors. Large enough that legal minimum by one is 10 ft under ground by the other.

As it is AF base, we don't know what type of charts were available. May be some nonstandard (read not normally used by the crew) type based on QFE and/or just meters. Add ATC communication in Russian with which the crew was not fully familiar, low visibility, ATC suggesting diversion and VIPs breathing down their necks and you may get some idea under what kind of pressure the crew was.

At the end of 80s Yugoslav AF AN-12 cargo plane crashed in Yerevan under similar conditions while flying aid for earthquake victims. The crew was used to QNH/feet while ATC used QFE/meters. Airport, which was at normal times just a local thing, was overloaded with aid flights from all over the world. ATC was speaking only Russian and hardly able to cope with the traffic. The aircraft crashed 2-3 km short of the runway.

Smolensk North airport is XUBS, elevation 820ft
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Old 12th Apr 2010, 08:32
  #344 (permalink)  
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Somewhere in all of this you can read that a planeload of reporters had landed ahead of the crash aircraft. Well, that is SOP; the press have to get there in good time to set up and film the VIP arrival.

Of course in the meantime the weather can deteriorate so that the later-arriving VIP aircraft might be unable (as here) to land, when you almost always have the rather stupid layman's question of "Well, they made it it, why couldn't you?" plus the farce of the news people being left with nothing to report except, uhh, nothing happening! "A Polish crew landed their VIP passengers at the wrong airport this morning, when they finally had to arrive by bus from Minsk while a bemused gaggle of reporters waited for them at the airport in Smolensk..."

One problem VIP crews are often faced with is that the VIPs want to travel at a time of their choosing, one that fits their busy schedules. The crew may well want them to leave much earlier to avoid weather problems but that is often just not an option and this is simply a fact of life.

There was a high-profile crash in the States not long ago when the accident chain started with the California pax arriving just that much too late to beat sunset at their daytime-only destination in the mountains of Colorado. Well, whoever heard of rich folks needing to show up on time for anything, even the setting of the Sun?

We would like to think that our own safety priorities are paramount but out here in the real world that is often not the case. I remember a trip when I saw a highly professional crew first fed a load of malarkey about just when we should show up for departure, with the PA telling them, "We are on the way to the airport now," as we were just tucking into dessert. So the crew had to chase a series of slots there.

Then once we really had arrived at the airport the leader of our little pack chose to show his clients his Alpha Male qualities by ripping a strip off the Captain for not handling our luggage! What, he should have been lurking outside the GA terminal like some Redcap?

Then the Captain was finally allowed to do his departure, probably tired and stressed, off a relatively short runway that was now in the dark, when any screw-ups with that would have been very much 100% his fault so that was okay I guess. Well, not with me but then I was not one of the VIPs!
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Old 12th Apr 2010, 08:38
  #345 (permalink)  
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...you cannot exclude this possibility...
Agree, and from the statements of the investigation commitee so far, it has not been ruled out yet (or we don't know about it). However there is nothing at the moment that would explicitely point towards such a possibility as likely.

Don't forget the poitics of the investigation (let's face it, in both Polish and Russian cultures, appropriating blame is as important - if not more so - as finding out what happened):
  • The Russian's interest is clearly to demonstrate that all navaids functioned properly, ground control did all the appropriate things, and the (Russian bulit) plane was technically sound. However if there is a choice, a technical problem on the aircraft would still be more 'favorable', as there the blame can possibly be shared with those who maintained and operated it.
  • The Poles interest is clearly the opposite, to demonstrate that the pilot made all the right choices, some unavoidable external factor caused the event.
If you look at the opposing interests, probably a technical malfunction of the plane would leave the least red faces among the persons affected. Were that a likely case, I'm sure it would be already wide accross the press, even if in a speculative manner.
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Old 12th Apr 2010, 08:42
  #346 (permalink)  
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>>About a half hour before Tu154 crash, russian FSB Il-96 was diverted to Moscow.<<
>>though half an hour before the crash sent to Moscow, Il-96 military wiozącego to Katyn officers of the Russian Federal Protection Service (equivalent to BOR).<< Presumably Russian VIP security people?? Was Putin or someone of his ilk due to do the welcome? Putin turned up later anyway.
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Old 12th Apr 2010, 08:44
  #347 (permalink)  
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It was purpose of that visit. Putin and polish President Mr Kaczynski supposed to be there. To commemorate polish POWs killed by NKVD during WW2.
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Old 12th Apr 2010, 08:47
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@ Andrasz #343
We are big boys and we know whassup. Why Putin and polish Prime Minister showed up short after the crash.
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Old 12th Apr 2010, 08:47
  #349 (permalink)  
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...it's surprising that QFE/QNH problem is mentioned only a few times and then quickly forgotten...
I don't think it is forgotten by those in the know, it is simply something we cannot really speculate on before the fdr/cvr data are known. I would not be surprised if it does turn out to be the direct cause. However the question that seems to interest most (myself included) are the events / decisions that allowed this approach to be commenced in the first place.
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Old 12th Apr 2010, 08:52
  #350 (permalink)  
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Regulatory reference


Just out of curiosity,

can anyone point to a specific civilian regulatory reference (either EASA or FAA) regarding the number of approaches a crew is allowed to conduct before they have to divert?

The only ones I can think about (I am actually a military pilot and not very familiar with civilian op specs) are the Approach ban and a number of fuel-related restrictions.

Any reply will be very appreciated.

Spiros Chazapis
Athens, Greece
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Old 12th Apr 2010, 09:17
  #351 (permalink)  
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Good question...

Well, I think you will find that some operators may restrict you to something like 2 approaches before you are required to divert but that is about it, only a legal requirement in terms of adhering to your SOPs.

I know I have done up to 7 ILS approaches one right after the other (for re-validation purposes but an approach is an approach in legal terms) and, another time, something like 3 VORs as the weather, above minimums, improved to the point where we actually could spot the runway in time to make a stabilised approach and land so that I doubt there is any magic number in use.

Even with the reported weather below minimums there's a certain logic to "having a look" when that is tolerated or allowed. In this case if the MDA had been adhered to then that might have been a fairly benign decision, while going below MDA might well have proved fatal even if the weather had been at or above minimums. There is no absolute level of safety conferred simply by banning an approach; it is a bit more complicated than that, unfortunately.
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Old 12th Apr 2010, 09:22
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It was purpose of that visit. Putin and polish President Mr Kaczynski supposed to be there. To commemorate polish POWs killed by NKVD during WW2.
Putin was not going to attend this ceremony. Tusk and Putin attended an ceremony a few days earlier (a first for a soviet/Russian premier).

This commemoration was for Poles only, which is why the President was attending it as he wasn't invited to the Russian/Polish ceremony due his anti-Russian attitude.
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Old 12th Apr 2010, 09:25
  #353 (permalink)  
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OOOOHHHH to the one from near Otterdam....

Are we starting the conspiracy theories here???

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Old 12th Apr 2010, 09:57
  #354 (permalink)  
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For the umpteenth time, let's try to keep the conspiracy nonsense out of this discussion.
On the whole, it's been very professional and informative, exactly as PPRuNe should be.
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Old 12th Apr 2010, 10:03
  #355 (permalink)  
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It happened before

It has been reported by our media that (on an earlier state flight) the Polish President himself has ordered the PIC to start an approach into an airport that was basically closed.
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Old 12th Apr 2010, 10:09
  #356 (permalink)  
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When will Russia ATC join the rest of the planet and start working in QNH rather than QFE? I wouldn't at all be surprised to see this as an altimetry issue.
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Old 12th Apr 2010, 10:22
  #357 (permalink)  
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AFAIK they already started to move to RVSM and ft in some place (2 FIRs), so maybe some day they will move to QNH. But it's not relevant, as this was not ATC.

BTW, Polish air bases still tend to use QFE and meters, so the crew shouldn't be that much surprised (although of course it doesn't exclude possibility of a mistake).
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Old 12th Apr 2010, 10:22
  #358 (permalink)  
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Are we starting the conspiracy theories here???
Please show me such inclinations in my post. I was just trying to explain, why polish president was there.
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Old 12th Apr 2010, 10:24
  #359 (permalink)  
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QFE versus QNH

It is not just Russia that uses QFE instead of QNH. Many or most of the ex Soviet states and China are still using meters for flight levels and altitude as well as QFE. Don't know about North Korea but I suspect the same. While many countries use QNH and feet, the places I mentioned before are huge and overlap a comparatively large chunck of the world.
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Old 12th Apr 2010, 10:27
  #360 (permalink)  
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The Investigation

Quote from andrasz [April 11/1842z; currently #288]
(1) "From what I see so far, the Russian side is uncommonly upfront with presenting any verified information as soon as it is available, I see a very clear desire to avoid any accusations of a cover-up. On the other side, there is also a keen desire to absolve themselves of any blame...
(2) ..."I would expect that an independent third party involvement would not be in the interest of either of the parties."


Thanks for your reply to my two posts [currently listed #198 & #281] yesterday.

May I respectfully suggest an apparent inconsistency between your two statements, quoted above?

Going on yesterday's media coverage, the leaders of the two nations are united in the aftermath of this tragedy. But, with the Russians apparently calling the shots in the investigation (correct me if I'm wrong on that), I wonder how much longer this harmony will exist. Would the Polish public accept an early finding that the flight crew were entirely to blame, a finding that seems already to have been pre-empted by the statements of Russian officials?

A backlash in Poland is a strong possibility. That is why consideration should have been given to calling in a third-party investigation team as early as possible, preferably even before Russians (or Poles) started sifting the wreckage, and retrieving the recorders. Of course, the latter sounds a utopian concept in the real world. Sad to say that today, the third day, it is almost certainly too late.

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