Smolensk plane crash of April 10, 2010

By Kathleen Johnson, December 3, 2010

April 10th 2010 was a day that Polish people worldwide would not forget. It was a day of sadness, loss, and devastation. The Tupolev Tu-154M, which took off from the Warsaw Frédéric Chopin Airport at 7:23, was en route to the city of Warasw to attend the event of the 70th anniversary of the Katyn massacre. There were 96 people aboard this plane, carrying pretty much all of the head public officials. Most importantly, this plane was carrying the President of Poland, Lech Kaczyński, and his wife. Not only was this loss heart breaking, but also the losses of the chief of the Polish General Staff General Franciszek Gagor, the President of the National Bank of Poland Sławomir Skrzypek, the deputy foreign minister, Polish government officials, and 12 members of the Polish parliament.

The atmosphere of where the plane was supposed to land was not desirable due to the growing amount of fog that had turned up. Ground control at the airport suggested to the pilot that they divert, and land in either Moscow or Minsk. The pilot persisted and tried landing in Smolensk. The plane crashed a mere 200 meters away from the fence that closed in the runway. Before the plane fell short, it hit a 33-foot tree, which caused the plane to turn over and crash. Even though the pilot knew the conditions weren’t ideal he still continued to fly and attempt to land. On the black box that was found after the crash, investigators heard that the aircraft's terrain awareness and warning system had repeatedly warned the crew to pull up because of the terrain ahead of them. However, for some reason the pilot thought he could land regardless of what the warnings had told him.

Following the crash, Polish investigators were given the rights of the Russian investigators in order to determine the cause of the crash. They ruled out the possible thought of the crash as a terrorist attack, or at the fault of the plane. Through listening to the black box tapings and others various investigations, they determined the crash of the plane as the fault of the pilot, and his lack of listening and following the advice of ground control recommending him to pull up and not try to land.

The aftermath of the crash was very difficult to deal with because so many top officials were boarded on the plane. The chairmen of the lower house of parliament, Bronisław Komorowski became acting president. Other positions were filled by the second or third in command. The Polish armed forces took a bad hit, because all of their senior commanding officers were boarded on the plane. On July 4th, Poland had a general election; it was the acting president Bronisław Komorowski, the late president's brother Jarosław Kaczyński. Komorowski won wit 52% of the votes and became president.

A week of mourning was dedicated to the late president where many Poles worldwide openly mourned. The flags were at half-staff, and shrines were put up for all those who had died. The former president and his wife were taken to Wawel Cathedral to be put to rest. This day was a day that people around the world will never forget.