Violation by the Russian Federation of Rules and Procedures of the Chicago Convention, its Annexes and ICAO Regulations
Contradictions in the IAC or MAK Final Report
According to the IAC Final Report, “On 15 April 2010, upon request of the investigation team the An-26 t/n 147 of Military Unit 21350 aircraft laboratory made a test fly-around of the aerodrome navigation aids and lighting equipment. According to the results of the standard checklist for fly-around the mentioned navigation aids and lighting equipment were operative which was confirmed by the relative task sheets.” Unfortunately, the Polish Accredited Representative and his advisors were not allowed to participate in any fly-around tests. The analysis from the above mentioned test flight was not made available to the Polish side either, despite many requests made pursuant to Article 5.25 of Annex 13. 21
According to the IAC Final Report, the airport lighting system was working properly at the Smolensk 'Severny' airfield at the time of the accident. This conclusion stands in direct contradiction to statements contained in the IAC Final Report indicating that four out of eight rows of lights were turned off. 22 This information was revealed by the Russian side only after a journalist from Belorussia made public photos showing Russian soldiers replacing bulbs and fixing power supply cables only a few hours after the crash. 23
According to the IAC, records from the radar video tape related to the landing of Tu-154M Flight 101 were missing. “During the pre-flight preparation on April 10 only the operability of the recorder was checked with no assessment of the record quality. The analysis revealed that the record was not made due to twisting (bridging) of wires between the video camera and the video recorder. After the wires were insulated the video recording was resumed.” 24
While reviewing the IAC Final Report, the Polish side noticed the information on the location of the blips of the aircraft on the glide path that must have come from the radar video-recording and inquired: “In light of the information about the missing video-recording of the process of approach to landing on the PRL indicator, the quotation of data related to the location of the blips of the aircraft on the glide path on the PRL indicator raises serious doubts.”  Accordingly, the Polish side requested an explanation as to why a number of statements were made by the Russian side based on the reading from the radar video-recording if, allegedly, such recording was not made due to malfunctioning. The following statements made in the ICA Final Report illustrate this issue: “At 6 km the aircraft was actually higher than the glide path (considering the indication inaccuracy the aircraft blip was on the top boundary of the glide path tolerance area for glide path angle of ~3°10”).” 26
Another statement also refers to the reading from the radar recording: “At 10:40:39 the landing zone controller informed the crew: '2, on course, on glide path'. At that time the aircraft was at a height of about 115 m with reference to RWY 26 threshold, which was almost corresponding to the missed approach height. Considering the indication inaccuracies the aircraft blip on the radar was almost at the lowest boundary of the glide path tolerance area.” 27
The last sentence from the quote above is false in several important respects. First, it describes the aircraft blip from the radar tape that allegedly was not made. Second, the conclusion that the blip was “almost at the lowest boundary of the glide path tolerance” is grossly inaccurate considering that the margin of error in this instance is in the range of 600 percent because the tolerance level 28 at the distance of 2000 meters is 7 meters while the variance in this case is 42 meters below the gliding path, which amounts to 600% error. 29 Therefore the Russian conclusion that the aircraft blip on the radar was “almost at the lowest boundary of the glide path tolerance area” in the situation where the margin of error represents 600% is grossly unreasonable and wrong. Similar misleading statements are made with respect to the entire description of the gliding path. 30
A similar contradiction of fundamental significance to this investigation can be found with respect to the evaluation of Flight Control Group’s actions and the subsequent impact of these actions on the occurrence of the aviation event. In the IAC Final Report, the Russian side concludes that the FCT group actions during the approach did not contribute to the accident. 31 The Polish side challenges this conclusion by pointing out that the aircraft crew was incorrectly informed that they were on the correct course and path position, when in fact the plane was above the path, and from 2.5 km to DS 26 was below the path by 2°40'. 32
The Russian side further concludes that the level of professionalism of the FCT group at the Smolensk ‘Severny’ Airdrome complied with the requirements. The Polish side objects to this conclusion by stating that the Landing Zone Controller had little experience working in this capacity. “He served in this function seven times in the last 12 months prior to the day of the disaster, of which only once in adverse atmospheric conditions. In his log book, there is no proper entry of being authorized to perform KSL duties at the Smolensk 'Severny' Airfield, which is inconsistent with FAPPPGosA [Regulations of the Russian Federation].” 33
Another significant contradiction presented in the IAC Final Report relates to the analysis of the landing charts. An ICAO test flight was performed at the Smolensk 'Severny' airport on March 15, 2010 with the glide path angle of 2°40'. This glide path angle was used on the approach cards of Tu-154M that were made available to the Polish side. After the crash, on April 15, 2010, the Russian side performed a second fly-around test at the Smolensk 'Severny' airfield with the glide path angle of 3°12.3’. This second glide path angle was then selected for further calculations by the IAC. In its comments the Polish side points out that “there has been no analysis regarding the path of 2°40' (±30) valid for the approach cards. The explanation for changes in the path of 2°40' to 3°12.3' may be an attempt to explain the lack of response from KSL [Landing Zone Controller] to the deviation of position of Tu-154M aircraft from the valid glide path outside the permissible tolerance.” 34
The lack of response of the Landing Zone Controller to the wrong position with respect to the glide path is further justified by the Russian report as follows: “Thus, in the accident flight the landing zone controller saw the aircraft blip on the radar as being referenced to glide path of ~3°10’. The inaccuracy was about 0.5°, which is equal to the tolerance area range.” 35
According to the Polish side, the analyses of the glide path of 3°10' do not correspond with the valid and the published path of 2°40'. Furthermore, the information presented by IAC indicates that “the aircraft blip was outside of the permissible error area of the linear deviation, even for the path of 3°10’, which is not commented by the authors of the IAC Final Report.” 36
Calculations carried out by the Polish side that take into account the position of the aircraft in relation to the glide path of 3°10’ show that “at a distance of 3.3 km to the DS26 the permissible error of linear deviation is ± 28 m, i.e. with a tolerance of 1/3 of the value that is below - 9.33 m, KSL should have informed the crew of its wrong position on the path. The conclusion is that even before reaching 3 km, KSL continued to inform the crew of their correct position 'on the course and path', when in fact the flight of the aircraft was lowering, increasing its vertical distance from the path.” 37
The IAC Final Report also includes the following statement: “At 10:39:10 the controller informed the crew that they were 10 km from the runway threshold and had reached the glide path entrance point.” According to the Polish side “Informing the crew that at a distance of 10 km the aircraft had reached the glide path entrance point [means] that KSL guided the aircraft according to the approach glide path angle 2°40' that was in force on cards.” 38
In analyzing the last phase of the flight, the IAC decided to change the glide path angle 39 from 2°40' to 3°12’. In fact, three different glide path angles, that is 2°40', 3°10' and 3°12,3 angles, are used by IAC throughout the report. According to the Polish side, in the IAC Final Report “various angles of the descent path are referred to depending on the need for conducting the analysis, which gives the impression that the choice of path was dictated by the need to prove that on the radar screen the blip of the aircraft was always “on course”. In addition to the doubts about the angle of the path of the radar landing system and the consistency of the analysis [ . . . ], there is a statement saying that in fact the flight crew performed the flight with an angle of 5°.” Therefore, the Polish side was forced to ask: what angle of the path should be used here if even the path of 5° did not cause distress and reaction of radar guidance controllers. 40
According to the Polish side, when using the gliding angle of 2°40' the airplane was on gliding path only at a distance of 10 km and one more time at a distance of 2.78 km while crossing the gliding path. At all other times in a distance from 9 km to 2.78 km from the landing beam the margin of error was in the range from 200% to 600%. At a distance from 2.78 km to 1.48 km the airplane was below the gliding path with the error ranging from 300 to 600%.
Even assuming the incorrectly applied gliding path angle of 3°10' used by the IAC, the airplane would have remained 75% of the time outside the gliding path. At a distance of 3 km from the airport beam it was dangerously below the gliding path, exceeding the accepted margin of error 41 by 10% and by 1000% at 2.5 km to 1.95 km. The FCT reacted only at 1.45 km from the airport beam where the accepted error exceeded 1600%. 42
When the crew crossed 'level 101' the FCT did not alert the pilots about the problem but instead reassured the crew they were on course and on the correct path, misleading the crew about the actual distance from the runway beam. The FCT has not corrected this misleading information for at least 30 seconds.
Although the aircraft was for 29 seconds outside the zone - below the gliding path 43 - the Landing Zone Controller did not give the crew information about its incorrect position relative to the path, still incorrectly informing them of the correct position 'on course and on path.' 44 The command “Level 101” (10:40:53.4) was given about 14 seconds after informing the crew that they were “too on course on the gliding path” (10:40:39,9), 45 The command “Level 101” was issued by the Landing Zone Controller too late, when the aircraft's marker already disappeared from the indicator (according to testimony).
In the IAC Final Report, the IAC states that the Polish side did not submit required documentation regarding the April 8, 2010 incident when the Tu-154M aircraft entered in contact with a bird. However, in fact the Polish side had submitted to the IAC all required documents regarding this incident, and the IAC had in fact received full documentation of the event. 46
21 Polish Response in English, pp. 68-69.
22 IAC Final Report, English translation, p. 55. The lighting equipment check also revealed that depending on the aircraft position and flight altitude the lights at a distance of 400, 700 and 800 m from RWY 26 can be shaded by the surrounding trees and bushes. It revealed that the lights of the second and third group (800 and 700 m from RWY 26 threshold) were missing, there were fragments of lights, and thepower cable was torn off. The light filters on the firsts group lights (900 m) were broken, and only one of the three lights was operative.
23 Polish Response in English, p. 70-73.
24 IAC Final Report, English translation, p. 73.
25 Polish Response in English, pp. 57-60.
26 IAC Final Report, English translation, p. 58. Similar statements that refer to detailed information about the location of an aircraft on the radar screen were made on pages 57-60 of the report.
28 The tolerance levels of the Russian Federation as provided by the Federal Aviation Provisions regarding State Aviation Flights (“FAPPPGosA”) are presented on page 108 of the Polish Response.
29 According to K. Matyszczak, at the glide path angle of 2°40’the error is 600%. If the Russians insist on using the glide path angle of 3°10’ in this scenario the margin of error would amount to 1,000%. (2000 distance +-6 m tolerance level, 60 m below the glide path: 60/6x100).
30 IAC Final Report, English Translation, pp. 153, 154, 162,163,164.
31 IAC Final Report, English Translation, pp. 131-132.
32 Polish Response in English, p. 78. In relation to the 3°10’ path cited by the Russian side, the aircraft intersected the path downward 3.3 km from the DS 26 threshold. DS 26 means the landing runway at the Smolensk 'Severny' airport in the direction 259 degree from east to west E-W.
34 Polish Response in English, p. 69.
35 IAC Final Report, English translation, p. 123. Even at a glide path angle of 3°12’ and taking into account allowable deviations from the beam runway centre, the aircraft would still have remained under the glide path, dangerously close to the ground, even if starting from a distance of 3000 meters from the runway beam.
36 Polish Response in English, p. 69 and pp. 107-108.
37 Polish Response in English, p. 121.
38 Polish Response in English, p. 115.
39 As required by Article 115 of the Russian FAPPPGosA, “the location of the blip on the indicator corresponds to the position 'on the glide path' when the permissible error of linear deviation does not exceed 1/3 of the linear dimensions of the zone of tolerance.”
40 Polish Response in English, p. 123.
41 According to the regulations of the Russian Federation.
42 Polish Response in English, p. 108.
43 Ibid. In accordance with Article 115 of FAPPPGosA, the permissible error of linear deviation does not exceed 1/3 of the linear dimensions of the zone of tolerance.
44 In addition, FTC communications with the crew from the very beginning provided distance information with 600-700 meter error. Thus the crew thought they were closer to the airport than in fact they were.
45 Polish Response in English, p. 121. In fact the plane was already on the glide path at an altitude of 17m in relation to the threshold of DS 26.
46 Polish Response in English, pp. 48-50. The Polish side provides a detailed list of all the documentation submitted in connection with the bird incident.