Investigation says technical, human errors led to crash

  • 2005-10-05
  • By Milda Seputyte
VILNIUS - Receipt of faulty information from Russian officials did not prevent investigators from continuing their probe into the recent crash of a Russian fighter jet, said a presidential spokesperson. A final report on Oct. 4 said that the incident was caused by "technical, organizational and human actions."

Defense Minister Gediminas Kirkilas, Armed Forces Commander Valdas Tutkus and Brigadier General Vitalijus Vaiksnoras presented President Valdas Adamkus with conclusions of the investigation, which took two weeks.

Kirkilas said the commission established that the pilot, Valery Troyanov, had made mistakes in handling the aircraft's navigation equipment. In the minister's opinion, this might have occurred because Troyanov, like many Russian fighter pilots, had not flown much recently.

But Russia's flight control services also made severe mistakes, the report showed.

The commission established that the aircraft was technically sound but had been prepared for the flight hastily. In the commission's opinion, this might have had an effect on the precision of operation in the aircraft's navigation system.

The Russian Su-27 fighter crashed in the Sakiai district near the border with Kaliningrad, some 50 kilometers from Kaunas, on Sept. 15.

Although Russia refused to provide some requested information, Lithuanian officials said they had enough data to determine the cause of the crash.

"Although there can never be too much information, if Russian representatives don't provide [the information], we won't dramatize this 's we have enough material on the fighter's flight. We have nearly all the answers," said Vaiksnoras.

As part of the investigation, data from the aircraft's black box was analyzed, along with radar data and testimony of the pilot.

Investigators reportedly agree that the catastrophe was an unfortunate accident, not a planned recon mission.

Still, the incident has left a bitter taste with many, especially after Russian investigators submitted data from another plane. The Russian officials responsible for closing technical parameters tried to pass the buck, saying Vaiksnoras had submitted data from another aircraft.

Since each fighter plane has a unique code, this information is crucial for the analysis of flight data.

Kirkilas accused Russia of deliberately submitting inaccurate data, evidently to befuddle the investigation's results. However, he stressed that misleading data could not prevent the decoding of flight recorders.

"This won't determine the investigation, since it can't affect the decoding of the black box," Kirkilas said during the Ziniu radijas radio programme "Pozicija."

"Russia doesn't like the fact that we are conducting a consistent investigation, which complies with the law, and that we don't attempt to politicize it. This will probably be one of the rare occasions when such an accident will be investigated and its results made public," he said.

Russian officials tried to explain away the faulty data they provided by saying that the 20-year-old warplane included pieces from several different aircrafts.

Other than finding ammunition in the Russian aircraft, investigators reportedly uncovered a "friend-or-foe" identification system that blocks detection by foreign warplanes. It had been presumed that, while investigating the wreckage of the aircraft, the system would have self-destructed.

If the data is confirmed, Russia might have to change all of its secret identification codes, which could cost billions of dollars.

Russian officers, however, deny that Lithuanian experts could have found the "friend-or-foe" system. At the same time, Lithuanian officials have neither denied nor confirmed that they hold the secret system.

There have been rumors that the system is in the hands of Lithuania's military.

Meanwhile, parliamentarians intend to present a political assessment of the Su-27 crash. "The committee suggests presenting a resolution about the catastrophe; the text is already drafted. This will be a political assessment," said Alvydas Sadeckas, head of Parliament's national security and defense committee.

The resolution will show Lithuania's political position, their decision on the possibility of increasing NATO air police standards, and their advice to the government on improving air-space defense possibilities.