The crew of the aircraft carrying the Polish president managed to broadcast one final message before the plane plunged into woodland killing all 96 on board, the first analysis of black boxes shows.
Matthew Day in Warsaw
Published: 2:30PM BST 15 Apr 2010
Polish President Lech Kaczynski died in a plane crash in Russia Photo: AFP
Investigators disclosed that the pilots were aware they could do nothing to prevent their demise.
"On the basis of the data in the possession of prosecutors one could say that the crew was aware of the inevitability of the coming catastrophe," said Andrzej Seremet, Poland's chief prosecutor. He added that the passengers probably remained oblivious to the danger until the very last second.
Investigators believe that as the aircraft approached Smolensk airport just a few metres off the ground its left wing was sheared off by a tall tree, and pictures taken near the crash site showing a tree cut in half appear to corroborate this.
Minus a wing, the stricken aircraft rolled to its left before slamming into the ground roof first and breaking into pieces. Experts estimate that only three to five seconds elapsed between hitting the tree and the plan's destruction.
The new details emerged as Russian investigators said that black boxes also indicated the Polish pilots were unfamiliar with the aircraft and tried to descend too fast, and thereby caused the crash.
A report based on the initial analysis of information stored in the boxes points the finger of blame at the air crew.
"An analysis of the evidence, including the first results from the decoding of the black boxes, shows that an error in piloting led to the disaster," the Interfax news agency quoted a source close to the investigation as saying.
The report reads that as the Polish government Tupolev Tu-154 made its final and doomed attempt to land at Smolensk airport in western Russia it came in at greater speed that pilots may have anticipated.
"A particularity of the plane is that if its speed of descent is more than six metres (20 feet) per second, when the plane equalized and goes into a horizontal flight it loses altitude," the source said.end http://www.telegraph...-went-down.html