Tu-154 likely not to blame for crash: analyst
Despite being involved in more than 60 crashes over the last four decades, the model of plane that Polish President Lech Kaczynski was flying in when it crashed Russia Saturday morning is likely not to blame for the deadly incident, an aviation analyst says.
Kaczynski was flying into Russia on a Tupolev Tu-154 when the plane crashed as it attempted to land in Smolensk, killing the president and the 96 other people on board.
Aviation analyst Mark Miller said allegations that the 26-year-old plane is the cause of the crash are likely unfounded.
The plane that was carrying the Polish president had recently undergone refurbishments, Miller told CTV News Channel Saturday in a telephone interview.
"This idea that the plane was unsafe is an unfair characterization."
The Tu-154 still flies in former eastern Bloc countries and sometimes in Asia and served for several decades as a workhorse for Russian civil aviation.
"They're an older Russian plane for sure," Miller said. "But they were the workhorse, the 727 of the Russian fleet for many years."
Russian airline Aeroflot recently decommissioned its last Tu-154, largely because the planes do not meet international noise restrictions and use too much fuel.
The plane's flight data recorders have been recovered, but so far no official cause for the crash has been identified. It has been reported that the pilot attempted to land three times and crashed while flying out of the fourth landing attempt.
Miller said a possible explanation for the crash may lie with the pilots' determination to land the plane so that the president and other Polish dignitaries could attend the commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the Katyn forest massacre.
"If the airplane attempted to land three times, four times in fog, that would indicate to me that the airplane was functioning well," he said. "Had they had even the hint of a problem, they certainly would have gone to Moscow or somewhere else.
"I think one of the issues they are going to have to look at here though is whether or not the pilot felt pressure to get that plane on the ground. This was a very, very important ceremony."
Last summer, a Caspian airlines Tu-154 flying from Iran to the U.S. nosedived into a field, killing 168 people. According to the Aviation Safety Network, the Tu-154 has been involved in 66 crashes in the last four decades, six of those in the last five years. Many of the crashes involving the Tu-154 have been attributed to chaos caused by the breakup of the Soviet Union.
Key Facts about the Tu-154:
- The plane first flew in 1968
- The model currently flown was developed in 1982
- The aircraft seats between 164 and 180 passengers with a crew of three to four people
- About 900 Tu-154s of different models have been produced
- There are currently about 250 still in service