Kaczynski’s Pilot

The New York Times looks at the key focus of the investigation into the plane crash which killed Polish President Lech Kaczynski and scores of others of political and military leaders in Russia over the weekend:  the decision of the pilot to attempt to land the plane despite poor weather conditions.

Still, attention has been drawn to the pilot’s state of mind because of a previous incident involving the Polish president, Lech Kaczynski, who died along with numerous other senior Polish government and military officials in the crash.

In August 2008, during Russia’s brief war with Georgia, Mr. Kaczynskigot into a dispute with a pilot flying his plane to the Georgiancapital, Tbilisi, according to reports at the time. Mr. Kaczynskidemanded that the pilot land despite dangerous conditions, but the pilotdisagreed and diverted to neighboring Azerbaijan.

Mr. Kaczynski threatened that there would be consequences for thepilot, the Polish newspaper Dziennik reported. “If someone decides tobecome a pilot, he cannot be fearful,” Mr. Kaczynski said. “Afterreturning to the country, we shall deal with this matter.”

That pilot was not disciplined and received a medal for his service.But the defense minister later said that the pilot had suffereddepression in the wake of the incident.