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The Tu-154M and Tu-154M Lux are the most highly upgraded version, which first flew in 1982 and entered mass production in 1984. It uses more fuel-efficient Soloviev D-30KU-154 turbofans. Together with significant aerodynamic refinement, this led to much lower fuel consumption and therefore longer range, as well as lower operating costs. The aircraft has new double-slotted (instead of triple-slotted) flaps, with an extra 36-degree position (in addition to existing 15, 28 and 45-degree positions on older versions), which allows reduction of noise on approach. It also has a relocated auxiliary power unit and numerous other improvements. Manufacture continued through 2006, and there is still limited manufacturing as of January 2009.(photo link) Max. take-off weight increased first to 100,000 kg (220,462 lb), then to 102,000 kg (224,872 lb). Some aircraft are certified to 104,000 kg (229,281 lb). Tail numbers are 85616 (prototype), production aircraft from 85606 and on (except 85804, which is re-imported Tu-154B-2). About 320 were manufactured. Mass production ended in 2006. No new airframes have been built since the early 1990s, and production since then has involved assembling airplanes from components on hand. This is the most widely used version in the former Soviet states.
On the face of it, the Smolensk accident has the hallmarks of the classic attempt by pilots to descend below minimum conditions in an attempt to land in bad visibility. It is being assumed by professionals that the Polish Air Force captain was under heavy pressure to get his plane-load of top brass to the historic ceremony at Katyn. The desire to land at all costs is known in the trade as "get-there-itis" and pilots are trained to resist it. But there are unanswered questions.
According to the Russian authorities the crew of the Tu-154M were making a fourth attempt to land. Fog covered the area, but visibility of a few hundred yards was reported. Standard rules for airlines require crew to give up after two attempts and divert to an alternate destination. If the Russian report is right, the crew were pushing it. But new reports today suggest that this may have been their first approach after circling the field three times. They were of course operating under military, not civil airline, conditions.
The Smolensk North military airfield lacks an instrument landing system (ILS), the equipment that allows aircraft to descend very low in cloud on the approach to the runway. A civilian plane at Smolensk would normally be making a "non-precision" instrument approach, based on the "NDB" radio beacon at the field (it is not equipped with a more precise VOR beacon). This would require that the pilots spot the runway surroundings ahead and before they descend below a safe minimum height of a few hundred feet. Experts are saying today that a standard non-precision approach in the weather prevailing at Smolensk would have been unlikely.
There is an alternative. The pilots may have been on a military Precision Approach Radar (PAR) -- a method used very rarely in civil aviation. The Russians have not confirmed that this was the case, but their statements suggest it. With PAR, the pilots are talked down by controllers using very acurate ground-based radar. The approaching aircraft is kept on the glideslope by verbal instructions -- "high, low, left right" and so on. That was, for example, how planes landed at Sarajevo in poor weather during the siege in the mid-1990s.
We know that the Russian military controllers were closely monitoring, if not guiding, the approach because they told the Polish crew that they were descending below the glide-path and advised them to give up, according to officials. The controllers advised them to try another destination, but the captain has final authority. The airliner hit the trees a kilometre from the runway and slightly north of its normal approach course.
Originally posted by potential_problem
[topic unsuscribed, this is ridiculous, this place is shallow as sake bowl]
Originally posted by DCDAVECLARKE
Can anybody answer me this! why were all these important People put on such a Mickey Mouse Plane in the first place.