Poland Introduces New Aircraft, Changes Its VIP Airlift Regulations: Lessons Learned After Smolensk Crash

Sep 29 2017 - 23 Comments
By Jacek Siminski

The Polish Air Force is renewing its VIP fleet and flights regulation.

Poland is about to change its Presidential and governmental (VIP) flights instructions and requirements, as the Polish Air Force takes delivery of its new aircraft and MoD plans to amend and prepare new regulations with regards to the VIP transport operations.

According to Col. Michał Marciniak, a member of a group within the Polish MoD which works on the new VIP/Head of State flights regulations who recently gave an interview to the Polish dlapilota.pl outlet, “One of the reasons for changes is the expansion of the Polish Air Force’s VIP fleet, including procurement of the new [Gulfstream G550 and Boeing B737-800/BBJ2] jets. Some of the provisions are resulting from the experiences.” Marciniak is probably referring to the controversial Smolensk crash, when the Polish President was killed aboard a Tu-154 in a CFIT (Controlled Flight Into Terrain) incident that took place in very bad weather conditions in Smolensk, Russia back in 2010. During the said infamous flight, e.g. numerous officials were flying together with their replacements (Deputy Ministers and Ministers, Commanders of the Armed Forces and so on) onboard of a single aircraft, which has been one of the reasons for harsh social pressure placed on the authorities, to redefine the VIP transport regulations and requirements.

Indeed the accident caused 96 victims: along with the President of Poland Lech Kaczyński and his wife Maria, the former President of Poland in exile Ryszard Kaczorowski, the chief of the Polish General Staff and other senior Polish military officers, the president of the National Bank of Poland, Polish Government officials, 18 members of the Polish Parliament, senior members of the Polish clergy and relatives of victims of the Katyn massacre.

The crash sparked also a wave of conspiracy theories; however, no evidence supporting the version according to which the accident was the result of a political assassination was found in Polish and international investigations

The first of the listed amendments assumes that the PM, deputy PM and two Vice-PMs may fly on-board of a single aircraft, nonetheless the third vice-PM cannot fly in the same airframe, which shall guarantee continuity of leadership, should any incident take place. This is still a problematic issue, since many important persons would be flying on-board a single jet.

Changes concerning the flying crews requirements seem to be even more worrying.

The VIP pilot has to have at least 250 hours of flight time accumulated on the given type of aircraft. Nonetheless, according to Marciniak “gaining the operational readiness on a new aircraft is prolonged by several months”, hence “task-based flight-time is going to be more important”, as, and this is the most controversial claim “higher amount of hours logged does not always translate into higher skills”. The Polish official states that the new regulations assume that if the pilot can fly in tough weather, this would be sufficient for him to be eligible to fly similar operations in HEAD settings. Ultimately the General Commander of the Armed Forces, would be the decisive person to approve the given crew for VIP operations. Each of the crew members should also have multi-engine aircraft experience, with the commanders having at least 1,000 hours of lifetime flight-time logged.

Arrangement of the VIP flights is also going to be changed, as it would be permissible to plan the flight less than 24 hours before the departure, on condition that the Polish Government Protection Bureau issues an approval and that the commander of the Airlift-responsible military unit issues a confirmation of readiness (i.e. ensuring that a crew is available, with proper approvals issued, airframe is available and so on). The assumption is that in case of the newly acquired VIP aircraft (G550 and to-be-acquired 737 jets) three crews per jet would be formed to ensure that a crew is always available in case an unforeseen flight is requested.

A question that emerges almost instantly, when considering the aforesaid flight-time requirements is that little experience is required to pilot a Polish VIP flight compared to the requirements in place in other air arms.

For instance, in case of the U.S. Air Force One, the Air Force Personnel Center claims that the applicant needs to have flown as an Airlift, Tanker, or C2ISR (E-3, E-4, E-8, KC-135) Major Weapon System (MWS) Aircraft Commander, with no fighter experience. It is also explicitly stated that no fighter pilots would be accepted in that role. The required flight-time in case of AFO is 2,000 hours in total, with 3 years Time on Station. Furthermore, Instructor experience is required. It would be also highly desired by the 89th Airlift Wing that the pilot has logged 2,500 total hours, with 250 gained as a MWS/OSA instructor with evaluator pilot experience. Moreover, the ideal candidate should also have recent worldwide flights experience and minimal number of qualification level 3 (or equivalent) flight evaluations. In practical terms, the AFO pilots often have more than 4,000 hours logged.

According to the reformed Polish regulations, the pilot applying to serve in the 1st Airlift Base in VIP operations may have logged his flight hours on any type of multi-engine aircraft.

Image Credit: Author

  • leroy

    I’ll tell you the biggest lesson Poland learned. If you want quality, reliability and the best technology available DO NOT buy Russian. Buy American! That way Poland can become a bulwark in Europe, in NATO, against Russian aggression. After all, Germany has abdicated their responsibilities there, in Central Europe, so Poland is going to have to assume them.

    What else do I want to see Poland acquire? F-35. P-3C (SLEP’d). E-2D, Growler. More F-16s. From Airbus A330MRT, A400. Other equipment. Poland is going to become a European military power, something they never could be if they purchased inferior Russian equipment. No Chinese crap either!

    • Holztransistor

      leroy – salesman of the military-industrial-complex or propaganda writer for the CFR? The phrases he secludes sound like they were written by Allen Dulles himself.

      Russia is blamed for almost everything now that goes wrong in the west. Incompetence and lack of ability to lead a country properly is blamed on the Russians whenever possible. Proof for Russian influence? Not necessary. The allegation is enough if it’s repeated by as many newspapers as possible in a big circle jerk. But the so called “alpha journalists” are all connected to the CFR.

      • leroy

        Little green men are everywhere. Guess what? They’re Russian! If someone is European, and they show up – shoot ’em! That’s what we’d do here in the United States. Personally I’m hoping they set foot in Alaska. Our Constitution has a surprise waiting for them. : )

    • Ethan Mclean

      YES ! They also should buy some ospreys, – they only crashed 3 times this year :DD And YES, lets push some of US neocon, military industrial complex agenda down their throats, make them buy some of US made overpriced planes to boost US economy :DDD

  • leroy

    Poland must completely leave the sphere of Russian influence. If they don’t, Moscow will do to them what they recklessly and without mercy did to Kiev. They’ll reinstate the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact and try to steal half of Poland. Again! They’ll say there are Russians living there, and because they need it as a “buffer” against a peaceful, international law-abiding NATO.

  • BehindEL

    Out of curiosity why are fighter pilots not allowed?

    • Jacek Siminski

      As I have commented via the fb fanpage: In my humble opinion it is about the attitude that is being conveyed to the pilot in training – in case of the fighter jocks, there’s a strong drive to make them aggressive, and complete objectives at all costs. You would not want to take risks when transporting the President, would you?

    • Tawse

      1. Hard for a fighter pilot to gain anywhere near the number of hours & experience that a wide bodied pilot – re the above aircraft mentioned – would have.

      2. Formula One drivers are superb on a race-track driving at 200mph but would you really want one driving the school bus?

      Presumably, no fighter pilots would include the bomber B-52, B1 and B2 pilots as well?

  • PabloR

    How does the claim of the accident to have been a CFIT type fit with the fact that the data published in the course of the investigations (by the way, there was no international investigation; there was only a Russian one and a Polish one) show that the black boxes and other equipment stopped recording before hitting the ground?

    • kiwi7

      “Terrain ahead” warning at 31:53. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ucfMbPt8xRw There was nothing wrong with the Soviet made Tupolev. An incompetent Polish Air Force crew can kill their president the very same way the American Air Force crew could kill their Secretary of Commerce. ( Croatia 1996).

      • PabloR

        The TAWS warnings appeared simply because the Smolensk airport was not included in the TAWS library… At the time of the first warning the aircraft was above the glide path, not below. The first pilot issued the command “We are making a go- around” at the prescribed height of 100m (this command was “hidden” in the Russian transcription and report). However they did not manage to go around and the investigations did not explain why. Even if this was their fault, they would not have been able to break the plane into 60,000 pieces (this fact was established during the investigation however it was not mentioned in either report) by simply crashing it at around 5 degrees angle. The first of the plane parts were found nearly 1km before the final crash site. The “pilot’s fault” and “controlled flight into terrain” do not explain this from the pure physics point of view. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/d210aaf0d71ec787530c83f71246c38e938c197c9a6ee681f33e8badea46ad11.jpg

    • Tomas Rodriguez

      Pablo, the Russian investigation was the international investigation. By international law (ICAO) the country where the aviation accident took place must create a Commision composed as a minimum by representatives of the nation of registry(Poland), the owner of the aircraft, the operator, the manufacturer, and any experts deemed necessary. Since ICAO is the UN it cannot get more international than that. This is not an FBI, KGB, Scotland Yard, Surete, Mossad, issue. Much less, a political one.

      The Polish investigation was political (they did not trust the Russians and wanted to involve the US Congress, who refused, I think). It was allowed by Russia as a gesture of good will. Only Poles participated, but Russians helped.

      Now Poland is organizing a third investigation, arguing disagreement with the previous Polish official investigation and with
      the Russian refusal to send the aircraft remains to Poland.

      Stay tuned.

      • PabloR

        Thank you. I am from Poland and I know the details. For your information: the flight was a military one, not a civil one. So out of the scope of ICAO jurisdiction. Anyway, ICAO’s rules determine that the wreckage is handed back to theowner of the aircraft directly after termination of the investigation. So it should have been back in Poland already 6 years ago. How come the Rusks are keeping it to this day? Is it another token of their “good will”?

  • leroy

    You did it to yourselves with the invasion of Crimea and Eastern Ukraine. Until you get out sanctions will not be lifted. Given Russia’s lowly GDP of around $1.2T (U.S. GDP is closing in on $20T), seems Russia would rather lack in economic development than join the civilized world. How long has this been going on, this poverty? A century? More!

    You do know that Russia’s GDP is 12th in the world, right? Below South Korea and Brazil. Now that’s pathetic! Australia and Spain are about to pass you leaving Russia at #14 (and dropping). Because you make nothing, and given that oil is slowly being replaced by other sources of energy, Russia’s economic future is looking pretty darned bleak. Russia’s military reflects. Broken and staying that way.

  • leroy

    I agree about Airbus. I think the A330MRT and A400 would be good acquisitions.

  • Ethan Mclean

    When it comes to invading countries, you yanks better keep mum. Your list is way longer.

  • PabloR

    It is not true. In the recording there is a command of the first pilot “We are making a go- around” issued at the prescribed height of 100m (this command was “hidden” in the Russian transcription and report). However they did not manage to go around and the investigations did not explain why. There is no evidence in the recordings of the pilots being pushed to land in spite of the bad weather, to the contrary – there are a few wordings indicating at their plan to make a go around if the conditions were not sufficient to make a landing. The plane fell apart to 60,000 pieces (this fact was established during the investigation however it was not mentioned in either report), first of them found nearly 1km before the final crash site. The “pilot’s fault” and “controlled flight into terrain” do not explain this from the pure physics point of view. A new investigation is underway, expected to be finalized next year.

  • Jacek Siminski

    Not a blizzard. Fog, dense fog, beyond the capacity of the Russian PRMG system used at the Smolensk field.

  • PabloR

    It is not true. In the recording there is a command of the first pilot “We are making a go- around” issued at the prescribed height of 100m (this command was “hidden” in the Russian transcription and report). However they did not manage to go around and the investigations did not explain why. There is no evidence in the recordings of the pilots being pushed to land in spite of the bad weather, to the contrary – there are a few wordings indicating at their plan to make a go around if the conditions were not sufficient to make a landing. The plane fell apart to 60,000 pieces (this fact was established during the investigation however it was not mentioned in either report), first of them found nearly 1km before the final crash site. The “pilot’s fault” and “controlled flight into terrain” do not explain this from the pure physics point of view. A new investigation is underway, expected to be finalized next year.

  • Holztransistor

    Show me proof that there are regular Russian troops. Protip: Not even James Clapper could present such.

    It’s a civil war in the Ukraine because America thought they could get the Crimea by inciting a coup. Too bad the people of the East Ukraine didn’t accept the fascist government in Kiev. They really have made Bandera a national hero (who in reality was a Nazi collaborator). The Donbass on the other hand always had strong ties to anti fascism.

  • Holztransistor

    The stories about Russian influence on CNN are lies. They are made up because it keeps viewer ratings high and that’s equal to more money.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jdP8TiKY8dE

    The propaganda network in the US:
    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/43a091c2a34a63d6adf2c778bd605c5803cdb3825c5633c9f5015f03a3e07d30.png

  • PabloR

    I sent you by email a few weeks ago a detailed justification of this claim. What was exactly wrong with it? All the data were taken from the official reports. The recording equipment went dead 70 meters before the first impact with the ground and at 15 meters above the ground level. MAK report mentions only FMS (“The FMS power was lost (memory frozen) at 10:41:05 at a barocorrected altitude of
    about 15 m, with IAS 145 knots (about 270 km/h) at N54°49.483′ E032°03.161′.”; http://mak-iac.org/upload/iblock/f2a/finalreport_eng.pdf#page=107) but from the Polish prosecutors’ investigations it follows that the above mentioned loss of power affected all recording equipment including apart from FMS also FDR, CVR, QAR, TAWS. How an aircraft with a power loss can be treated as “airworthy” to fit in the definition of CFIT? This is my question.

    • Jacek Siminski

      You should check your facts.

      The crash began several seconds before the jet even touched the ground, as MDH was exceeded in IMC.