2003 Polish Air Force Mi-8 crash
On 4 December 2003, a Polish Mi-8 helicopter operated by the 36th Special Aviation Regiment carrying Poland's Prime Minister Leszek Miller crashed near Piaseczno, just outside of Warsaw.
The helicopter suffered extensive damage and was written off as a total loss, after the pilot performed an autorotation landing in a forest following the failure of both engines. The cause of the engine failure was determined to be icing.
Fortunately, given the severity of the crash, there were no fatalities, but 14 of the 15 people on board were injured, including Leszek Miller, who had two of his thoratic vertebrae broken. The pilot of the helicopter was major Marek Miłosz, later promoted to lieutenant colonel.
On 10 March 2004 Miłosz was criminally charged with violating flight safety rules and causing the crash. Specifically, the pilot was blamed for not manually turning on the deicing equipment during the flight. The pilot argued that the meteorologic information available to him at the time did not indicate that icing was likely, and hence he was not required to turn on the deicing equipment. He was consulting a thermometer during the flight, but it suffered from a systematic measurement error and hence wasn't able to adequately warn of icing. In addition, during the flight an unusual weather phenomenon of thermal inversion occurred, with temperature rising with altitude, which the pilot could not have predicted.
In March 2010 the 6 year trial ended with a verdict of not guilty. The judge in the case noted the pilot expertly carried out the difficult autorotation landing and that the passengers survived because of his superb piloting skills. Leszek Miller declared that if he had to fly again in a helicopter in difficult atmospheric conditions, he would choose Miłosz as his pilot.
The helicopter was 26 years old at the time of the crash, and was close to the end of its service. It belonged to the 36th Special Aviation Regiment responsible for transporting Polish government officials.
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