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Smolensk approach strategy unclear

The Polish comments appended to the report say that the Smolensk controller's command to "level off" was delivered too late, because the aircraft was already at 55ft (17m) height.

In fact, the co-pilot is heard to say: "We go for a go-around", and appears to have made a nose-up input to the controls, but not sufficient to trip the autopilot out, and did not make any further input.

That command was issued after the aircraft had descended through its minimum descent height of 330ft, but it was clear from the Smolensk controllers' conversation that they had accepted that the crew were carrying out a descent using on-board navigation aids because they had not requested guidance.

Smolensk could have provided vertical guidance from their radar, because they were monitoring the approach on it, observing that the aircraft was tracking above the glideslope but within permissible limits, and converging with it at a high descent rate of 1,575ft/min (8m/s). Shortly before impact the aircraft passed through the glideslope without any alteration in the rate of descent. No landing clearance had been provided by Smolensk.

Although the report leaves the subject open, it seems likely that the crew were using a flight management system guided approach, because the airport's co-ordinates had been set into the FMS at a visit to Smolensk the previous week. There was no crew briefing before top of descent.

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