Dr. Bogdan Gajewski, Ph.D: "Official reports do not meet basic conditions" Interview with ISASI (International Society of Air Safety Investigators) Expert
Dr. Bogdan Gajewski, Ph.D.
Dr. Gajewski, Engineer: "The fundamental flaw lies in the fact that the Tupolev crash has not been investigated." An interview with an International Society of Air Safety Investigators (ISASI) expert.
“I have never come across an investigation similar to the one we witnessed from the advocates of the "armoured birch". This is no longer misconduct alone, but a fury of uncontrolled outbursts of anger” - says Dr. Bogdan Gajewski, Ph.D, a coordinator for the Investigation Team of the TU-154M crash.
Q: You are a member of prestigious ISASI organisation, which is short for International Society of Air Safety Investigators. Is it because of your thorough understanding of how an air investigation should be conducted, that you became a firm critic of the KBWL report, also known as the Miller report? How does this document differ from other investigations you took part in personally?
Gajewski: Both documents, i.e. the MAK and Miller reports, appear peculiar, as if they were scribbled down, which I mentioned previously during my presentation at the II Smolensk Conference. It appears that this unheard of form of conducting an investigation and preparing reports will become study material for future M.A. and PhD theses.
Q: Is it true that the members of the committees, which investigate air accidents, receive immunity? The immunity, on one hand, allows the investigators to examine circumstances of the crash objectively, without fear of pressure, yet on the other hand, it shields them from any criminal liability?
Gajewski: The situation with immunity is incorrectly interpreted by a majority of the Polish media. Personal character requirements for air accident examiners are similar to those expected of lawyers or doctors. A person appointed to investigate an air crash usually has an impeccable reputation, is trusted by his colleagues and superiors, and has relevant security clearance, which means full access to classified and highly classified information. People appointed to investigate an air accident are exempt from criminal and civil liability, with one of the reasons for this being that they are working for specific organisations, which would assume any legal prosecution, should such cases arise. Inappropriate conduct of a member of the air accident investigation team is another matter. If such an incident takes place, it only spells out an end of that person’s professional career. The issues concerning accident investigations are too serious for amateurs or people with dubious moral standards to conduct them.
Q: What can be done in this case? The case in which the government’s report was not only prepared in violation of accepted practices, but also sanctioning an incorrect state of affairs ? Should a new committee be formed?
Gajewski: In the light of the published results of the investigation, presented during both Smolensk Conferences, there is no doubt that both reports do not meet basic requirements for accident reports. It is the duty of the person or institution responsible for preparing the report, to revise it in the event that there are any doubts concerning the quality of that report, or there is new information available, which came to light after the report had been written. In particular cases, a different committee has to be appointed in order to guarantee an objective, and most importantly, a professional level of the final report. In accordance with Polish law (Journal of Law No. 69, item 442, dated 27th April 2010), the only person who can appoint a new national air accident investigation committee is the current Prime Minister [Donald Tusk].
Q: During your lecture at the II Smolensk Conference, you invoked the ICAO manual, which is a very strict set of instructions and procedures that have to be applied when certain specific types of evidence are presented at the site of an accident. Could you please remind us, what evidence were you referring to?
Gajewski: Maybe I should begin with an explanation that ICAO manual is not and was never meant to be rigid. The ICAO manual is a compilation of different publications collated together in such a way that it creates auxiliary material for the air accident investigation team. These auxiliary materials are the result of the co-operation between many people connected to aviation, thus forming a very comprehensive manual for investigating an air accident.
Let's go back to the evidence found at the scene of the accident. The basic requirement for maintaining an objective investigation is the documentation of the accident site and securing materials for further examination. As we know, the plane seats have not been examined, correct autopsies have not been performed, nor has anyone analysed the breaking apart of the fuselage into thousands of tiny pieces. The list of failings is very long.
Q: How did the Miller Report treat this evidence?
Gajewski: It failed to mention it.
Q: What are the shortcomings of these two reports?
Gajewski: The fundamental flaw lies in the fact that this plane crash has not been investigated. The fact that the pilot brought the aircraft down to a low-altitude is not the direct reason for the plane's fuselage breaking into thousands of pieces. We also know that the unlucky birch was not involved in damaging the aircraft's wing. That's why the analysis of the damage mechanism, which occurred in the fuselage, is such an important element of the investigation. In case of any doubt, there should be a thorough examination undertaken in order to clarify this issue. This is a very important matter for civil aviation, and it's evidenced by the aviation companies carrying out further tests on the disintegration of fuselages. One could speculate that both the MAK and Miller committees didn’t have specialists in materials’ deformation, or they omitted those findings purposefully.
Q: Can the character and the extent of the damages determine the main direction of the investigation if it's documented with many photographs taken at the scene of the plane crash?
Gajewski: Of course it can. The most important photographs are those taken during the first hours after the accident, before the crews cleaning it contaminate the scene of the crash. What is crucial in the materials gathered by photographers is the character and the extent of destruction in the fuselage of the aircraft. Large amounts of small fragments from the aircraft, together with characteristic fuselage warp, suggest the possibility of an explosion in the air. Because of this, the course of the investigation should allow for the possibility of sabotage or an assassination attempt.
With this type of damage, when parts of the plane were found before of the place of impact, one cannot say that "if it hit it, then it tore it off". This type of statement is against common sense because it brings the course of events down to a statement that "the plane crashed because it hit the ground". This type of conduct is unacceptable in professional circles.
Q: Do you believe that the bodies of the victims require special attention, the same way the Tu-154M plane wreckage does, including such elements as the seats that were installed on board? Why?
Gajewski: During my first lecture at the II Smolensk Conference, I discussed the procedure for carrying out accident investigations in North America. I pointed out the necessity of carrying out detailed autopsies, because the human body is the best-known subject material. Medicine is on such a high level today, that the analysis of injuries caused to the human body allows us to explain many aspects and mechanisms of damage caused in the plane.
The second element is the passengers' luggage. Starting with the hand luggage, through backpacks, to suitcases, we obtain material objects with different strength and different mechanical characteristics. Damage analysis of particular parts of the luggage allows us to ascertain the mechanism of destruction caused in the luggage or passenger (hand - luggage) compartment. The exigency of the analysis of the remains of the fuselage is surely obvious to everyone.
My second lecture at the II Smolensk Conference dealt with aircraft seats. Aircraft seats are designed in such a way so that they ensure passenger safety during the flight. Contrary to popular belief, the comfort issue is secondary. Seats should resist all the forces which impact on them during take off, landing, or during extreme circumstances, like violent turbulence or a crash landing. Seat covers cannot only absorb any soot resulting from a fire, but they can also char in high temperatures. Seat mountings and their damage can speak clearly about forces at work during the breakup of the fuselage.
Q: Seat belts are a separate issue. The MAK Report states that 18 passengers had no seat belts fastened before the crash landing. Those 18 passengers were sitting in the former VIP lounge compartment, which was converted 3 days before the crash. They were the only ones that had no seatbelts on. Is it a coincidence? One could argue that maybe a single passenger didn't have a seatbelt on, but eighteen?
Gajewski: And only in the area where the plane had been converted? The first reaction is to check whether the seats were correctly mounted, why there was a conversion ordered, and whether the seatbelts met strength requirements. Maybe these were lower standard seat belts? You could ask multiple questions here, but none of the reports carried out an analysis of the seats in this regard.
Q: Were those 18 TU-154M passengers, who were sitting in this hurriedly converted “Third VIP lounge”, also the people who sustained the most severe injuries?
Gajewski: There is such a statement in the MAK Report. It states that the passengers sitting in this part of the passenger cabin sustained the most severe injuries due to the unfastened seat belts. It is a very bold statement because it suggests only one cause of the most significant injuries sustained by the passengers. Such serious injuries can be a result of other causes, with a localised explosion being one of them.
Q: How did Miller's Committee look at and examine this special area? What has been done about it?
Gajewski: Nothing has been done. It states in the appendix to the Miller Report:
"22.214.171.124. Preparing for take off. On 06.04.2010 the aircraft was converted in 36 splt, not in accordance with documents issued by the body shop after the finished re-fit. 18 passenger seats were mounted in the third VIP lounge, designated for 8 passengers. No analysis of the change of the centre of gravity in the empty aircraft was carried out."
The first sentence is most curious. It reveals that the government plane had been subject to alterations, which were inconsistent with the documents issued by the servicing institution. Such a situation is unthinkable. It might indicate complete disorder in the military unit, or deliberate action from the people who reconfigured the plane differently than stated in the documentation. The use of the term "re-fit" is also unclear when referring to the alterations that took place. It is either an alteration, or a re-fit. These two terms are not unequivocal.
Q: Have you ever examined, or maybe heard of a case where 4 different versions of the same recording from a CVR recorder were being presented, and each new version is described as being truer than the previous one? Supporters of Putin's version of the 10th of April events try to quietly suggest, that it is often the case...
Gajewski: I once heard a sentence that everything was possible in Russia; even four different transcripts from one recorder. It appears that it is not important what is recorded, but who reads the recording.
Q: The organiser of the Smolensk Conference, Professor Piotr Witakowski points out that today's science allows us to examine a lot, even in situations where evidence is several centuries old. Which evidence is most diligently being hidden? Is it the one that prompted the independent Parliamentary Team to conduct, of its own initiative, a very arduous and time-consuming investigation?
Gajewski: Our investigations are very comprehensive and cover a wide range of investigatory procedures. Beginning with the analysis of voices in the cockpit, through computer simulations, to satellite photographs - we are dealing with such a high calibre of experts, of which Miller's Committee can only dream of. Similarly, we do not reveal all our results to the researchers participating in the investigations for further analysis, until we are certain of their meaning.
Q: Last question. Independent researchers, who investigate the tragedy of the 10th April 2010 plane crash, face not only a lack of access to basic information. They are also facing peculiar roadblocks. These include defamation campaigns, letters discrediting their character which are sent to the universities where they work. Have you ever encountered such a radical campaign during an investigation of an ordinary plane crash?
Gajewski: I have never come across an investigation, similar to the one we witnessed from the advocates of the "armoured birch". This is no longer misconduct, but a fury and uncontrolled outbursts of anger. It stems from the fact that the raving madmen realise the insipidity of their own arguments and they believe that the louder they shout and threaten our investigators, the sooner they will win the argument. I would like to add that this is a deceptive intent. We are not able to have a discussion with someone, who is not showing any skill in discussion, nor basic politeness, which we were taught during our education in Poland.
Our role does not rest with convincing people to accept our point of view. Our job is to explain the ambiguous circumstances encountered while reading both of the reports prepared by the MAK and Miller teams. As time goes on, we have more and more doubts about the credibility of both of these reports.
This interview was published on the Blog-n-Roll portal.
Translated by Anna Zatorska-Batt and proofed by Jan Czarniecki
"Russian Image Management"
The trip to Smolensk was expected to highlight Russia finally admitting culpability in the massacre, after long having blamed it on the Germans, an atrocity they had tried to conceal for over 70 years.
As for the reception committee, it had different ideas. Putin wasn’t looking forward to such an occasion. Into this poisonous reception brew was President Kaczynski’s well-known public criticism of Moscow and Putin, a habit that has ended the lives of others within Russia – and abroad. A few discouraging Russian requirements – that Kaczynski could not attend in any official capacity – did not halt the Poles. Kaczynski would go anyway on non-official, “personal” business. To Russians, such a distinction would be meaningless, not lessening the possible international excoriation of such an event. A problem ripe for a modern, Russian solution: a tragic, ‘natural’ accident.
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