Leak suggests pilots pressured in 2010 Polish plane crash

AP News
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Posted: Apr 07, 2015 12:05 PM

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Leaked cockpit conversations from the Polish president's plane that crashed in 2010, killing all on board, are suggesting that the pilots were under pressure from presidential and Air Force officials to land in unfavorable conditions, Polish media reported Tuesday.

But military investigators cast doubt on the interpretation of the leaked material, published by Radio RMF FM, saying some speakers and remarks are wrongly identified in the leak. They are opening an investigation into the source of the leak.

Ahead of the April 10 anniversary of the crash, near Smolensk airport in Russia, the radio station said that experts were able to identify more voices and phrases than previously after using a new technique to recover data from the cockpit voice recorder. It published minutes of the recordings, suggesting that Air Force commander, Gen. Andrzej Blasik, was assuring the pilots they could make a safe landing despite the dense fog, while a presidential aide, not identified by name, and a flight attendant, were insisting the presidential delegation were in a hurry to a ceremony. In the leaked material, the crew is repeatedly heard asking for silence. The station did not say how it obtained the recordings.

The crash that killed President Lech Kaczynski and 95 others remains a sensitive issue in Poland, and especially ahead of presidential and parliamentary elections this year. The main opposition party, Law and Justice, is blaming the ruling Civic Platform for having neglected the security of Kaczynski, a co-founder of Law and Justice. But the leaks shift the blame toward Kaczynski and the officials he took on the plane.

Less complete readings have been publicly known for some years and indicated the presence of third parties in the cockpit, as the anxious crew attempted a landing despite poor visibility. Polish investigators have blamed the crash on the decision to by the crew to go ahead with the landing despite those conditions. They have also named two Russian flight controllers as suspects, for having provided misleading guidance and for having allowed the landing.