Power steering on Kaczynski’s Tu-154

Spiky parliamentary questions put to the Polish defence minister Bogdan Klich two years ago heap another shovelful of irony onto the Tu-154 crash that killed Polish president Lech Kaczynski.

 

On 12 August 2008 the Tu-154 was scheduled to fly Kaczynski and a high-ranking delegation from Warsaw to Ganja via Simferopol. Kaczynski put in a late request to fly instead to Georgia, newly at war with Russia over South Ossetia, which the aircraft’s captain, Grzegorz Pietruczuk, denied on the grounds of safety concerns.

 

Pietruczuk received a decoration for his sense of responsibility towards the president, and other members of the high-ranking delegation on board.

 

Archives from Poland’s parliament, the Sejm, show that Law & Justice party member Przemyslaw Gosiewski subsequently asked the defence minister whether a pilot had the right to refuse an order from a superior in the armed forces. He also demanded to know whether, by awarding the medal, the minister intended to show that “insubordination, cowardice and disobedience” would be rewarded in future.

 

In a detailed response defence minister Klich said that Pietruczuk had “acted properly” by exercising his position of command. Klich pointed out that failure to obtain last-minute consent for an amended flight path risked the aircraft being “treated as an intruder”, and added: “The Tu-154 aircraft is not designed to operate in armed conflict zones.”

 

Investigators probing the loss of the Tu-154 at Smolensk have yet to determine why the pilots opted to pursue an apparently hazardous approach rather than accept a safer alternative. None of the conclusions will matter to parliamentarian Gosiewski who – having questioned the courage and discipline of crews that take such decisions - was among the 96 victims of the crash.

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