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Black-box transcripts from Polish plane crash released

Almost two months after a plane crash that killed Polish President Lech Kaczynski and 95 others, the black-box transcripts have been released, revealing what took place in the cockpit before the plane went down.

Plane debris following crash on April 10

The plane crashed near the airport in Smolensk

Poland has published on Tuesday cockpit conversations of the last dramatic minutes before the April plane crash that killed President Lech Kaczynski. Although Polish and Russian investigators have not made any final conclusions, transcripts of the black-box cockpit recorders seem to support the theory that pilot error and poor conditions led to the crash.

The plane carrying Kacynski and 95 other people, among them high-ranking government officials, crashed as it came in for a landing at Smolensk airport in Russia. Despite warnings from Russian air traffic controllers - which can be heard on the black-box recordings - the pilots decided to attempt a landing anyway.

Polish soldiers carry the coffin of Lech Kaczynski

Kaczynski's funeral followed a week after the crash


"Thank you," said the chief pilot, Arkadiusz Protasiuk, on the recording, referring to the air traffic controller's weather warning. "If it's possible, we'll make an attempt, but if the weather isn't good we'll go for a second pass."

The pilots then began normal landing procedures.

About two minutes before the crash, alarms indicating "terrain ahead" with warnings to "pull up" repeatedly sounded in the cockpit. These warnings went unheeded by the pilots until it was too late.

No indication of pressure from passengers

In the Polish media it had been speculated that pressure on the pilots to land, possibly from Kaczynski himself, had contributed to the tragedy.

Kaczynski and his delegation were running late for a planned ceremony in the Katyn forest that marked the murder of 22,000 Poles 70 years ago.

Lech Kaczynski

Kaczynski and his wife both died in the crash


However, the cockpit recordings provided no evidence to support this theory. The voice of Mariusz Kazana, head of Poland's diplomatic protocol, can be heard telling the pilots "well, then we have a problem" if the plane were unable to land on the first try.

Kazana can also be heard saying that there had been "no decision from the president on what to do."

The pilots seemed to think that their landing attempt would not be possible due to the weather and that they would have to pull up for another pass or land at a different airport.

The last bit of audio recorded on the black box is the sound of the plane hitting a tree and an unidentified person in the cockpit cursing in Polish. The plane then flipped and crashed, killing everyone on board.

mz/Reuters/AFP/ap
Editor: Kyle James

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