Poland's defense minister has stepped down after a stinging new report that blamed Polish officials and Russian air traffic controllers for the April 2010 plane crash that killed President Lech Kaczynski and 95 other people.
As the Associated Press is reporting, Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk confirmed the departure of Defense Minister Bogdan Klich, who had submitted his resignation Thursday in anticipation of the report, produced by the Polish government's Committee for Investigation of National Aviation Accidents over a period of 15 months.
The New York Times quotes the 328-page report as saying:
The pilots, it noted, “had little experience” flying in difficult weather conditions using the sort of nonprecision landing systems necessary at Smolensk, about 230 miles west of Moscow, where conditions were relatively primitive.
The most immediate cause of the crash, the report found, was the crew’s “failure to monitor altitude by means of a pressure altimeter during a nonprecision approach” -- they descended too far below the fog without realizing it -- and then failed to heed an automated warning to pull up.
"In order for the unit to carry out its tasks, deliberate decisions were made to disregard or break procedures, to conduct training not in line with training regulations," a member of the investigative commission, Maciej Lasek, is quoted by Reuters as saying, before noting more experienced pilots had left for more lucrative work in the civilian aviation sector. "Pilots straight out of flying schools were accepted and no training flights were carried out."
Polish Interior Minister Jerzy also Miller added, "One can even say that the soothing directions from the control tower were misleading. The crew thought it had not committed any errors and that it was on the right approach path."
In addition to Kaczynski, first lady Maria Mackiewicz, the heads of the armed forces and many senior officials all died in the crash as their TU-154 Tupolev plane was trying to land on April 10, 2010, in thick fog near the western Russian city of Smolensk, the Associated Press reported.