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Pilots of Polish President Lech Kaczynski's plane knew they were doomed to crash in the final seconds of their flight, analysis of the black boxes shows.
A member of the investigation team has revealed there was 'dramatic' speech on the flight deck moments before the Tupolev-154 hit the ground in dense fog killing all 96 passengers and crew.
Polish expert Colonel Zbigniew Rzepa declined to reveal more but the country's attorney general Krzysztof Parulski admitted: 'Three to five seconds before the crash the pilots were aware that it was unavoidable.'
Russian soldiers stand guard beside the wreckage of the Polish government Tupolev Tu-154 plane which crashed in Smolensk on Saturday
And he made clear that, with the plane travelling at 150 to 180 meters per second, there was sufficient time for Captain Arkadiusz Protasiuk and his flight crew to realise the catastrophe that was about to hit the plane and its passengers.
He did not say if investigators believe that the passengers, including the Polish president, his first lady Maria and many members of the Warsaw political and military elite, would also have realised they were doomed to crash .
Another anonymous source close to the investigation claimed that a fatal pilot error in the final moments of the flight led to the disaster.
He claimed the black box analysis plus a reconstruction of the flight has shown that a final manoeuvre by the pilot plunged the plane into the trees and that he lost a vital chance to save the aircraft.
Having ignored warnings not to land due to severe fog, the black box shows he belatedly aborted his fatal attempt to land after realising the Russian-made jet was not properly aligned with the runway at a military airport near Smolensk.
Mass mourning: Thousands of people queued for hours outside the Presidential Palace in Warsaw to pay tribute at the coffins of President Kaczynski and his wife Maria
He used the engines to gain altitude but in the process the plane lurched to the right, and the wing hit the tree tops.
'At this moment the head pilot made a fatal mistake. He switched on the thrust, rocking the plane to the right. The reason for this is unknown but he aimed to go higher and to turn simultaneously. As a result, his plane clipped the tops of the trees and he lost control. If he had only switched on the engine thrust to go straight up, he would have had all chances to avoid hitting the ground.'
This analysis suggests the pilot was unaware of how low he was, which puzzles investigators since his jet was equipped with a special UIS-made safety device called a Terrain Awareness and Warning System (TAWS) that warns the flight deck when they get too close to the ground.
Russian officials have ruled out fire or explosion as a cause of the crash on Saturday at Severny military airport.
'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,' said another source close to the probe.
One theory yesterday was that the crew were not familiar with a key peculiarity of the Tupolev-154. As the plane came into land it levelled from its oblique descent approach to a horizontal angle to compensate for bad visibility.
Lying in state: The late president and his wife's coffins are on public view in the Column Hall of the Presidential Palace ahead of their funeral on Sunday