Poland sacks top officers over air disaster

by Jessica MCILHINNEY on August 5, 2011

Thirteen top Polish army officers have been relieved of their position, while the deputy defence minister has handed in his resignation, over last year’s tragic air disaster.

The government announced its dismissals after a report identified mistakes that were made by unskilled and poorly trained pilots as the cause of the crash.

President Lech Kaczynski, his partner, and 94 senior officials, was killed once the jet plane he was travelling on attempted to land in incredibly heavy fog in western Russia. Additionally, the air force regiment that was previously responsible for all VIP flights has also disbanded.

Now-Prime Minister Donald Tusk told of his determination to quickly implement recommendations made by the report, which heavily criticises Poland’s 36th Special Air Transport Regiment. According to experts, it lacked training facilities, as well as instructors, with its pilots continually overworked and trained in a quick and haphazard manner.

Three air force generals in total were dismissed and they were joined by 10 other military officers. Czeslaw Piatas, an army general, resigned from his post as deputy defence minister.

The Tupolev Tu-154 aircraft crashed just shy of the runway located in Russia’s Smolensk area after it struck trees in heavy fog. On board were officials that spanned Poland’s military and political elite. They were making their way to a special memorial for victims of Katyn – a massacre of thousands of Pole officers at the hands of Soviet forces in 1940.

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