Russian MAK crash report was written by an illiterate Whether due to incompetence of experts, editors, or yet some other reasons – the MAK report was written by an illiterate - says Sergey Verevkin, former head of the Moscow-Vnukovo airport.
Moscow-Vnukovo Airport - PHOTO by Aktug Ates
Tatiana Anodina? Yes, I remember. In the early 80s, I saw her either at Vnukovo, or at the Ministry of Civil Aviation. At that time she was the chief of the Main Directorate for Radio Electrotechnical Support and Communication Systems. She was an elegant lady, always with a perfect, though terribly complicated hairdo. Her hair was always arranged so you could see the embroidered general’s epaulets on her shoulders, and gold twigs on the collar-shaped tunic. She wouldn’t get out of her government-issued black Volga car, but literally fly out of it.
Piotr Falkowski speaks with Sergey Verevkin, former deputy chief of the Moscow-Vnukovo airport.
Q: Are you familiar with the report of the Interstate Aviation Committee (IAC/MAK) and the accompanying "Remarks of the Republic of Poland"?
Verevkin: I have not read the whole [Russian] report yet, but I rather carefully studied remarks of the Polish side. The transcripts of telephone conversations with the flight controller room, radio conversations, and voice recordings from an open microphone in this same room, were also added to the MAK’s report.
Q: What is your general impression after reading it?
Verevkin: When it comes to Polish remarks, it is striking that the Poles did not receive many of the documents, were not given answers to their questions, and were not given opportunity to participate in many important procedures. [Let me list the most] obvious of these documents, that are not secrets of any kind. For example, the data about the magnetic declination, or the exact altitude over the airport, etc. Based on my reading of the IAC [MAK] report, I can say that this report - whether due to incompetence of experts, editors, or yet some other reasons – was written by an illiterate. Its conceptual preparation is unfortunately weak; we could expect better. Despite its declared impartiality, the MAK report, bears evidence of desire to fault the flight captain [on the Polish government plane]. For example, it is argued that having only three thousand hours of flight time is negligeable. For the Russian pilots that would be a very big number! They only analyzed the actions and psychological profile of the first pilot. And what about the other crew members who were in the cockpit of the Tu-154M? What about [the people on the ground, like] the flight supervisor, his assistant and the other people who were in the control tower room? What about their "psychological profiles", what about the analysis of their actions? Many mysterious secrets remain unanswered; Why were there FIVE people surrounding the Head Dispatcher instead of just one. What were their powers, and what role did they play? What was each and everyone of them doing, and to what end? Whom did “K.” report to, and what did he report? Who are “W. I.” and “O. N.”? What happened to the video recording; according to the landing zone manager everything worked properly? There so many unanswered questions that they would fill several written pages to list them all.
Q: What was your aviation career like? What positions did you hold?
Verevkin: My specialty is more in airports than in piloting. In 1975 I graduated from the Moscow State Automotive and Highways Institute with a concentration in research, design, construction and operation of aerodromes and airports. Then, I started working at Vnukovo, serving as the airport services’ shift supervisor. In 1976, I moved to work as an engineer operating airports on behalf of the Moscow’s Civil Transport Aviation Board. Both Vnukovo and Domodedovo airports are under its jusrisdiction. While there, shortly thereafter, I became a deputy head of the department operating ground equipment, and in 1981 was appointed deputy chief of the Vnukovo airport for flight security. I supervised operation of terminal services, electrical services, that is, lighting, and all other technical services supporting air operations. [These also included] issues related to fueling, lubes and greases, as well as management of the office responsible for all special-purpose vehicles and technical airport support. Services under my supervision were engaged in aircraft refueling and maintenance of all equipment to ensure the proper functioning of the airport’s infrastructure; including the approach, and landing lights, etc., at the airport, and in the approach area, and all equipment. This would be the electrical lighting. I was often appointed by the Vnukovo’s manager to head preparations of flights designated "A"; their acceptance and clearance. These denoted arrivals and departures of flights carrying the most important people in the USSR. For example, I was appointed to manage the entire Vnukovo Airport complex during arrivals and departures of the government delegations to Moscow for the funeral of [Leonid] Brezhnev in 1982. On that day, the weather [at Vnukovo] was much worse than on April 10, 2010 [when the Polish government Tu-154M crashed], and we were managing several dozen VIP flights that day.
Q: Why, in your opinion, is MAK so tendentious in the way it interprets the circumstances of the crash of the Polish plane?
Verevkin: I cannot say that about MAK with certainty; nor that it is credible, or that it is not misleading. Also, I do not want to talk about MAK’s biases. But, I see the questions that the MAK report does not answer, and mysteries which are in no way explained. How then can this be described as an investigation of an air crash. I say this, all based only on the study of the Polish remarks. For me, as well, there are many unclear issues.
Q: The MAK speaks of "unprecedented cooperation" with the Polish side, which is quite contrary to reality. Why such an attitude?
Verevkin: Perhaps, this "unprecedented cooperation" MAK with the Poles, is expressed precisely by the fact that you do not have access to a wide range of documents. These documents exist, and yet you do not know the facts, that can, or should be ascertained; had this been an honest, and comprehensive investigation ... And what is MAK trying to hide? Here we can have our suspictions, but I do not want to speculate.
Tatiana Anodina, MAK - PHOTO by FreePol
Q: Do you know the General Tatiana Anodina, MAK’s Chairwoman?
Verevkin: In the early 80s, at times I saw her at Vnukovo [airport] or at the Ministry of Civil Aviation. At that time she was the chief of the Main Directorate for Radio Electrotechnical Support and Communication Systems. She was an elegant lady, always with a perfect, though terribly complicated hairdo. Her hair was always arranged so you could see the embroidered general’s epaulets on her shoulders, and gold twigs on the collar-shaped tunic. She wouldn’t get out of her government’s black Volga car, but literally flew out of it. She was ranked 14th in the table of ranks of our Ministry (the Minister was ranked 16th); [she had] one wide and two narrow strips on her shoulder sleeve. She always wore new expensive furcoats. She wouldn’t exit the government-supplied black Volga, but flew out of it. She took very good care about her appearance, to make an impression; she wanted to be the darling of the right people. She was the wife of the Minister of Aviation industry of the USSR, Pleshkov – and this explains an unprecedented tempo in which her career flourished. Her rank corresponded to a General in the military. She was awarded the State Prize, various other awards and medals of the USSR. Her son Aleksandr Pleshkov directly manages the Transaero Company. His wife is the director general of the company, and Tatiana Grigoryevna [Anodina] is member of the board. Therefore, from the very beginning of its existence, Transaero received extremely attractive and preferential treatment in establishing its air-fleet, that were based on aircrafts from the U.S. Boeing and European Airbus.
Q: The core of the MAK report is an accusation of the Polish crew. According to the MAK [report], the military control of the flights worked flawlessly. There were also no irregularities at the airport. What do you think?
Verevkin: I want to draw your attention to the scandalous violation of rules of the international flights [that took place in this instance]. Radio correspondence is to be conducted only in English! After all, we do have trained flight controllers in Russia. The report could not explain why the landing zone supervisor was at all time giving [false] instructions to the pilot; that the Tu-154M was on a correct descend path, and continued saying: "On course, on path". Even when the Tu-154M was just two kilometers from the beginning of the runway! They say that one of the crew then set the altimeter incorrectly and there was a discrepancy in the readout; that is some 170 meters. But, the dispatcher said that the aircraft descends to the glide path! So he, himself, had something set incorrectly, or improperly calibrated the instruments. Did someone purposefully interfere to “an unknown end?”
Q: What do you think about Tu-154M aircraft? Is it a good and safe aircraft for VIP flights?
Verevkin: This aircraft is obsolete; let me put it to you "ethically". It's loud, and it “eats" a lot of fuel. Because, its engines are heavy in comparison with Western standards, they have low power, so it has slow acceleration speed. The passenger cabin is uncomfortable, cramped. But, it is a strong aircraft. The airframe (hull) is strong. Reliability of load-bearing parts and their aerodynamics are the only superior aspects of all Soviet civilian aircraft [of that period]. I saw with my own eyes how during a winter in Vnukovo, a Tu-154 landed without lowering its right landing gear. It touched the surface with the left one and continued relying on its aerodynamics, holding the nose up. Only at the last moment it dropped the nose down. And it continued rumbling down the runway, with one wing on the ground, spewing sparks and flames. But, the wing didn’t brake off, nor did it catch fire. As for the fuselage and engines, this is an unfailing aircraft. If we were to compare it with other Soviet aircraft, it would be like comparing a [Mercedes to a Yugo]. A VIP flight is no different from any other flight. Flying is flying. [The difference lie] in the strictest of requirements placed on the ground support.
Q: You have a lot of experience in handling special-purpose flight airplanes with important people onboard. After all, the “Rossiya” unit is stationed at Vnukovo. Do you think that the Smolensk North Airport is suitable for these types of flights?
Verevkin: During my times, “Rossiya" was called “235”. It was an independent squadron that served only VIP flights. As for the Severnyi, and this is what I know about it from the media, this is a closed military airport. Not in the sense that it is secret, but that it is not used. Even in the case of civilian airports, much would have to be done to restore it to a standby status. A military airport operates on the principles that are a lot worse than civilian. While serving in Poland on the staff of the Air Force of the Soviet Union during 1984-1988, I had an opportunity to see very well how military airports are operated. It seems that from the moment it was closed, there wasn’t any work done to maintain it, or to retain its operational readiness. Most likely it was to house the rusting-away IL-76s and to prevent looting. And who would have thought at this time not only about its general condition, but also about maintaining the readiness of the lighting equipment, all electronic equipment, landing systems, proximity beacons, markers, direction finding equipment, including visibility indicators at this airport? Who was filling the gaps on the runway with bitumen? You have to do it regularly, because in time, as a result of precipitation and temperature the surface begins crumbling […]
Q: Is the weather forecast prepared by the meteorological office in Tver ...?
Verevkin: An airport must have its own weather station. A man from Severnyi contacted me and told me about fog that frequently and unexpectedly appears there; exactly in the area on the approach to the landing. Can did this meteorological station in Tver notice this local fog on the approach to the runway? I doubt it.
Q: Well, the crash wouldn’t have happened had it not been for the fog...
Verevkin: Strange fog, indeed. The same man I mentioned said something puzzling to me. Ten years ago, an IL-76 from the same air regiment was making an approach from the same direction. A thick fog appeared in the valley located on the approach path. The plane crashed. When the matter was investigated, it was found that when dense fog forms in the valley, or rather a gorge, it is accompanied by a formation of an air pocket. An aircraft’s nose pitches down, and the thrust of the engines is insufficient to level it up again. The plane is still flying, but its engines’ thrust (lift) diminishes, and the aircraft continues to descend. Rather than ascending, it descends more and more towards the ground. After the investigation ended, an advisory was issued that under foggy conditions, arriving flights were not to be received from this direction but from the opposite.
Q: Could it have happened on the tragic day of April 10 ?
Verevkin: That man simply did not know – this strange fog – it suddenly appears and then disappears; sometimes literally within half an hour everything is clear again. The MAK report indicates that Colonel Krasnokutskiy, former commander of the regiment was in the tower that day. It seems to me that he should remember that tragic accident. But you have to ask him.
Q: Let us take a closer look at the work of flight controllers.
Verevkin: Let's start with terminology. One should not speak of "flight control", but “flight management". And so the dispatcher is not a "controller", but the "manager" (Russian rukovaditel '). He not only controls them, but also manages them. It is very important to have a good understanding of these specialized concepts. There has been a clear violation of the principles of radio communication. The flight manager always gives data on the horizontal and vertical visibility, runway condition, wind speed and direction. It is very important that the crew has all the data. This is yet another violation of these rules. During the aircraft descent, the correspondence with the crew is to be carried out only by the manager of the landing zone. He is the only one [who should be doing this]. The flight supervisor may take part in it only under one condition - when the manager of the landing zone is removed from his post. Then, the flight captain must be informed that something like this happened. And here, everyone was talking over the air: flight manager, Colonel Krasnokutskij, and the crew of the Polish plane that was already at the airport. Well, how could the Yak-40 commander know what the exact readout of visibility was? He had no visibility indicator. This is what the dispatcher knows, or at least he should. Right there [in Severnyi] and not in Tver! The flight captain [on the Polish Tu-154M] should only consider what he was told by the dispatcher. But, no one had told him that the visibility was 200 meters!
Q: Can you tell us about the work of the head of the landing zone?
Verevkin: His words "on course, and on path" are the most puzzling, and remain, thus far, unexplained! "On course, and on path" means that the landing is not only proceding normally, but that is, in fact, perfect. [It means that] the altitude is correct, and that he is deviating neither to the right nor to the left. And that his speed is correct. The aircraft is exactly on the glide path, with a slope of 2 degrees 40 minutes from the touchdown zone on the runway! If this is not a “problem” then … I cannot find words to say what is ...
Q: In the case of weather conditions that are below permissable, shouldn’t the airport be simply closed?
Verevkin: When the weather conditions fall below the minimum necessary to securely receive an aircraft, the flight director (after all, he is the "manager" who personally makes decisions and takes responsibility for it) can close the airport for "meteorological reasons." Certainly you often witnessed such situations yourself. For example, you wanted to fly from Warsaw to Moscow, and an announcement is made: "Flight Okecie - Sheremetyevo is canceled (or delayed), because Sheremetyevo Airport is closed because of the weather." The flight director can also close the airport because it is "not ready" when the landing strip has to be cleared from snow or sleet, or an obstacle; "Crosswind", if this is stronger than that deemed safe for the size of the airport; "In the absence of an alternate airport," or even when conditions are perfect- but all airports are closed for some reason.
Q: What was the status of the aircraft flown by the Polish Air Force? The aircraft was military, it had military crew, was carrying the president and the official government delegation, and yet, MAK says it wasn’t a governmental flight.
Verevkin: Both, the media and the MAK (IAC) report said it loud and clear: this flight was indicated by the letter "A". When before the announcement of martial law in Poland, (13 December 1981), Wojciech Jaruzelski came to us at Vnukovo (it was the 11th, and my birthday, fell on December 12th) in a military AN-24, his flight was reported to us as having been designed with the letter "A". No matter who, what, why. At least, that was then. The letter "A" refers not to the crew, or passengers, but to the flight itself. And all of the necessery requirements should be met to treat it as an "A" designated flight. Please forgive the tautology. At least, that was then.
We thank you for this interview.
Sergey Ivanovitsh Verevkin was born in 1953 in Moscow, Russia. His father was an investigations’ officer. In 1975, he graduated from Moscow State Automotive and Highways Institute with a concentration in research, design, construction and operation of aerodromes and airports. During 1975-1984 he was part of the Vnukovo airport management, and during the last there years there, was its deputy head of flight security. During 1984-1988 he lived in Legnica [Poland] working on the Staff of the II-nd Air Army of the Russian Air Forces. After returning from Poland he held various government posts, and after that became an entrepreneur focusing on the construction of roads. Since the 80’s he devoted his time to writing. At first, he helped his father in the preparation of memoirs, and then began to publish books in the field of popular history, among them several best-sellers like: "The Second World War: Unknown Sites", "The Great Patriotic Disaster", "Conversations with the Polish ambassador about Polish history, and more". As an associate of "Parliamentary Gazette" he authored an article "Lokock’s alternative" (concerning war events), which caused a scandal and a received considerable publicity. From 2007 until the government closed “Our Time”, he was its publicist. He also edited the “Roads and Business” journal.
Translated from Polish: “Byly szef lotniska Moskwa-Wnukowo: Raport MAK pisany jakby przez analfabetę”. Source: “Bibula”, Retrieved 2011-02-1
"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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