The 2010 Katyń Families Association

On 10 April 2010 the Polish aircraft Tu-154M was flying at least a few metres above the ‘Smolensk birch tree’. This is the conclusion reached in an expert opinion that has been in the hands of the military prosecutor’s office since 2011. The expert opinion was compiled by ATM, the manufacturer of the aircraft’s Polish black box.

The official version of what happened on 10 April 2010, as put forward by the Russians and the Polish Government, centres around an alleged collision with a birch tree. An expert opinion based on an analysis of the ‘Polish’ black box (ATM-QAR) carried out shortly after the Smolensk disaster (as early as April 2010) explicitly contradicts the findings of Tatiana Anodina and the Miller Commission. The expert opinion was compiled by ATM, the manufacturer of the aircraft’s Polish black box.


This technical expert opinion, which is in the hands of the prosecutor’s office, is entitled ‘Decoding and analysis of data from the flight data recorders of Polish Air Force Tu-154M, tail number 101, which crashed on 10 April 2010’.It was received by the military prosecutor’s office in July 2011 and is filed in volume 203 of the Smolensk investigation documentation.

The expert opinion was compiled by ATM, the manufacturer of the aircraft’s ‘Polish’ black box. Annex 3 to the opinion is a table of values showing the aircraft’s altitude and how far it was from the start of the runway in the final three minutes of the recording. That annex is of paramount importance.The table contains data which make it possible to reconstruct the final seconds of the flight, and therefore also to gauge the altitude of Tu-154 above the start of the runway (which is 255 m above sea level) and the distance between the aircraft and the start of the runway.

What, according to ATM’s expert opinion, was the Polish aircraft’s altitude when it allegedly collided with the birch tree? The opinion states that at a distance of 928 m from the start of the runway the aircraft was flying at an altitude of 4 m above the level of the runway (i.e. 259 m above sea level), and at a distance of 849 m from the start of the runway it was at an altitude of 7 m (i.e. 262 m above sea level). The Inter-state Aviation Committee (MAK) report states that, at the time, the Smolensk birch was 855 m away from the start of the runway, and – this is important – rose to 248 m above sea level. This means that, according to the ATM expert opinion, at the time of the alleged collision with the incredibly solid tree, the aircraft was flying at a level of 11 to 14 m above the ground. There is no way it could have collided with the birch, which, according to the MAK and Miller Commission findings, had been damaged at a height of around 5 m above ground level.

The data from the hushed-up ATM expert opinion are one of the most important pieces of evidence in support of the findings of the experts working with the parliamentary committee led by Antoni Macierewicz. On the basis of a range of research and experiments (including analyses of the mechanical damage to the wing, research into data from the on-board computer, etc.), these scientists have, since 2010, put forward the theory that the birch did not cause the plane to crash.

It is worth noting that the ATM expert opinion was based on readings from the only original flight recorder that was in Polish hands in April 2010. Although the document of 15 July 2011 is in the files at the military prosecutor’s office, the investigators have never publicly mentioned the conclusions that can be drawn from Annex 3 to the expert opinion.

The members of the Miller Commission are aware of ATM’s opinion, as it was they who commissioned the opinion shortly after the crash. In the infamous Miller report, however, there is absolutely no mention of the conclusions that can be drawn from the data set out in the expert opinion. Furthermore, members of the government’s commission are publicly giving out information that contradicts the figures in ATM’s expert opinion. In April 2013 a group of senators from the Law and Justice party sent Maciej Lasek (chair of Poland’s air accident investigation commission) a list of 14 questions about the Smolensk disaster. The answer to one of them read: ‘The collision with the birch tree occurred at a height of around 1.1 m relative to the level of the runway.’

Source: Gazeta Polska