Nov 25

Exclusive: Pilot describes surviving Gwinnett plane crash

Channel 2 Action News exclusively spoke to a pilot who crashed his small plane in a Gwinnett County backyard .
The pilot and passenger met with federal investigators Wednesday morning, looking over the plane and piecing together exactly what happened.

  • The pilot described what was going through his mind as his plane came down in an interview on Channel 2 Action News starting at 4

The pilot told Channel 2’s Tony Thomas he lost engine power at about 1,600 feet and as he and his teenage co-pilot came down, they clipped two trees, then the plane spun around and crashed into the ground.
The Piper 28 single-engine aircraft lost a wing, but no one on the ground was hurt. Both pilot and passenger suffered only minor injuries.
The pilot doesn’t want to be identified but explained his thoughts as he looked over what remains of the aircraft.
“I think I’m lucky. I had a co-pilot from above helping me. There’s no doubt about that,” the pilot told Thomas.
The plane is owned by the father of the teenager who was aboard.

Nov 25

New Polish Gov’t Reopens Questions About 2010 Plane Crash

Poland’s new conservative ruling party has shut down government websites that carried the findings of an investigation into the 2010 plane crash that killed President Lech Kaczynski, reopening debate over a disaster overshadowed by conspiracy theories.

Law and Justice, the conservative party that took power last week, is led by Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the twin brother of the president who died in the plane crash near Smolensk, Russia. Kaczynski and other party leaders have long disputed the findings of investigators who declared the disaster an accident.

The disaster was the worst tragedy to strike Poland since World War II and carried a huge emotional charge for having occurred in Russia, a historic foe. Kaczynski and other top state officials were traveling to honor Poles murdered by the Soviet secret police during the war.

Kaczynski and his allies have suggested possible foul play by Russia and accused European Council President Donald Tusk — who was the Polish prime minister at the time of the crash — of negligence connected to the disaster.

A government spokeswoman, Elzbieta Witek, said Wednesday that she feels Tusk should face a top court, the State Tribunal, over his actions, but then insisted it was only her private view.

Earlier in the week, the government shut down two websites, set up by state authorities when Tusk was still prime minister, which carried information about the official state findings into the crash.

“The website has been closed and will simply remain closed,” Prime Minister Beata Szydlo said on Tuesday after a reporter asked about one of the sites that went offline.

Members of the new government believe that Tusk, who was prime minister from 2007-2014, didn’t put enough emphasis on the security for President Lech Kaczynski. They also blame him for not insisting on an international investigation into the April 2010 crash, which killed 96 people, and for failing to ensure the return of the plane’s wreckage.

Poland and Russia carried out separate investigations, both of which found that the plane crash in fog near Smolensk, Russia, was an accident. Both reports cited mistakes by pilots, while the Polish investigation also pointed to mistakes by Russian air traffic controllers.

The wreckage of the plane remains in Russia, with Russia refusing calls by Poland to return it. Moscow says it is still analyzing the wreckage, but the refusal to hand it over has infuriated many in Poland and fueled suspicions that Russia is trying to hide something.

Nov 25

Putin calls jet’s downing ‘stab in the back’; Turkey says warning ignored

ISIS isn’t present at that border area, but Turkmen were there, Erdogan said. Anyone who bombs that area attacks “our brothers and sisters — Turkmen,” Erdogan said in Ankara. Turkmen are a Turkic-speaking, traditionally nomadic people who live primarily in Central Asia, but a small minority of them can be found in the Middle East, primarily in northern Iraq, Iran and Turkey.

A Russian warplane goes down in Syrias Bayirbucak region, near the Turkish border, on November 24, 2015.The Turkish military says it shot down the unidentified warplane, contending it repeatedly violated Turkish airspace.Turkeys semi-official Anadolu Agency cites Turkish presidential sources in reporting that a Russian SU-24 was quot;hit within the framework of engagement rules.quot; The Anadolu Agency reported that a parachute was also seen leaving the jet before it crashed. The fate of the airman remains unclear.The Turkish government is strongly opposed to the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad. Russia, however, has backed Assad, and has had warplanes active over Syria.Heavy smoke has been seen in the area where the plane fell. lt;br /gt;russia jet syria crash 1russia jet syria crash 3russia jet syria crash 4russia jet syria crash 6russia jet syria crash 2russia jet syria crash 5

Erdogan said the plane incident was not something Turkey wanted to see happen, and “this does not indicate any animosity” toward any country.

He added the downed jet was “one of two” planes but didn’t elaborate beyond that.

It’s been Turkey’s cool approach that has prevented similar incidents up to now, he added.

Turkey’s ambassador to the United States, Serdar Kilic, tweeted: “Understand this: Turkey is a country whose warnings should be taken seriously and listened to. Don’t test Turkey’s patience. Try to win its friendship.”

A U.S. official told CNN that a calculation shows the Russian jet was in Turkish airspace for 30 seconds or less. The Turkish government has said that it issued 10 warnings over five minutes but did not say all of those warnings occurred while the jet was in their airspace.

‘Serious consequences’

Russian President Vladimir Putin said the downing of the plane would have “serious consequences for Russia’s relationship with Turkey.”

Russia: Pilot dead, marine killed in rescue attemptTurkey Russian plane Syria pilot _00000205

The shooting of the plane, Putin said, “represents a stab in the back by the terrorists’ accomplices. I can’t describe what has happened today in any other way. Our plane was downed over Syrian territory by an air-to-air missile from a Turkish F-16 jet.

“The plane fell on Syrian territory 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) away from the Turkish border. It was flying 1 kilometer away from the Turkish border when it was attacked. In any case, neither our pilots nor our jet posed any threat to Turkey. That is obvious. They were carrying out an operation fighting against ISIL in Northern Latakia.” (ISIL is another acronym for ISIS.)

What happened

The two Russian pilots managed to eject their Su-24 plane, the Russian military said.

Two Russian Mi-8 helicopters performed a search-and-rescue operation, but one of them was damaged by small arms fire and made an emergency landing, Russian Lt. Gen. Sergei Rudskoy said. One Russian marine was killed.

“The helicopter was destroyed by mortar fire conducted from the territory controlled by illegal, armed groups,” Rudskoy said.

Future Russia airstrikes “will be carried out only under cover of fighter aircraft,” Rudskoy said.

Also, the Russian cruiser Moskva will go to the shore zone of Syrian port of Latakia, and the military “warns that all the potentially dangerous targets will be destroyed,” Rudskoy said.

New video published on social media by a Syrian rebel group allegedly shows Turkmen rebels shooting at the two ejected pilots landing on the border between Turkey and Syria.

CNN couldn’t immediately confirm the video’s claim.

Speaking in Turkish language, a man shouts off-camera, “don’t shoot at them” and “capture them alive,” referring to the two Russian pilots.

Heavy gunfire can be heard on the video. The rebels also shout, “God is great!”

Erdogan on Tuesday pointed how Turkey has been hosting 2 million Syrian refugees while European countries have panicked over smaller numbers seeking refuge there.

It’s not possible to resolve terrorism or refugee problems without finding a sustainable solution to Syria, but the Syrian regime of President Bashar al-Assad and countries that support it have started a new assault that does not fit with finding a resolution for the area, Erdogan said.

Turkey vehemently opposes the Assad regime. Russia is backing it.

NATO calls emergency meeting

After holding an emergency meeting in Brussels on Tuesday, NATO’s governing body, the North Atlantic Council, said Turkey informed the body about the plane’s downing.

Turkey is a member of NATO, which considers an attack on one of its members to be an attack on them all.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg urged “calm and de-escalation” to resolve the Turkey-Russia situation, but he noted how Russian forces approach allies’ borders.

“I have previously expressed my concern about the implications of the military actions of the Russian Federation close to NATO’s borders,” the Stoltenberg said. “This highlights the importance of having and respecting arrangements to avoid such incidents in the future.

“As we have repeatedly made clear, we stand in solidarity with Turkey and support the territorial integrity of our NATO ally, Turkey,” he added.

NATO continues to follow the matter, Stoltenberg said.

A NATO official told CNN that “when Russian jets violated Turkish airspace a few weeks ago, the Council did meet in an extraordinary session, which resulted in a condemnation of the incursion.”

Pilots ejected

Not long after the plane was shot down Tuesday morning, spitting fire and diving nose-first toward the ground, Turkey took responsibility. Turkey’s semiofficial outlet, the Anadolu Agency, quoted Turkish presidential sources as saying the Russian Su-24 was “hit within the framework of engagement rules” in Syria’s Bayirbucak area, near the border with Turkey.

Russian officials denied the plane had violated Turkish airspace.

While ISIS does not operate in the area where the plane went down, other rebel groups do, including al Nusra Front — al Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria — along with more moderate U.S.-backed groups.

A Russian plane is seen crashing nose-first in northern Syria.

Abu Ibrahim al-Sheghri, the military leader in the 10th coastal brigade and part of the Turkmen Mountain Military Operation Room, told CNN that the body of one of the pilots had been found in the Nibh Almur area of Syria. The brigade is searching for the other pilot in the same area, he said.

Early this year, Moath al-Kasasbeh, a Jordanian pilot whose plane crashed in Syria the previous December, was burned alive by ISIS while he was trapped in a cage.

U.S. and French Presidents comment

U.S. President Barack Obama said Tuesday that “Turkey has the right to defend its country and its airspace,” but he acknowledged that U.S. officials “don’t have all the information yet.”

Obama said it was important that Russia and Turkey are in contact with one another to “take measures to discourage any kind of escalation.”

He said the plane incident “points to an ongoing problem with the Russian operations” in Syria, which are taking place very close to the Turkish border. Russia has been going after “moderate opposition” that has the support of Turkey, Obama said.

If Russia instead focused on fighting only ISIS, “some of those conflicts or potential for escalation are less likely to occur,” Obama said.

He said the encounter also “underscores the importance of our moving the political track along as quickly as possible” when it comes to resolving the Syrian civil war.

Obama made his remarks at a news conference with French President Francois Hollande at the White House, held to discuss the recent terror attacks on Paris.

Hollande called the plane incident “a serious one” and said Turkey is providing information to NATO “so that we can find what really happened.”

“We must prevent any escalation,” Hollande said.

Hollande will be traveling to Russia this week to meet with Putin and discuss taking action against ISIS.

“We must find a solution to the Syrian crisis,” Hollande said.

A brutal civil war

Turkey released a purported image of the flight path of the plane showing it had violated Turkish airspace. Two Turkish F-16s responded “within engagement rules,” the country’s officials said.

But the Russian Defense Ministry said “objective monitoring confirmed” the plane was not in Turkish airspace.

“The Su-24 bomber jet was in Syrian airspace at the altitude 6,000 meters, the Russian Defense Ministry said,” according to Sputnik. “The pilots were reportedly able to parachute out of the jet before it crashed.”

Syria has been embroiled for more than four years in a civil war that has killed hundreds of thousands of people, sent millions of families fleeing and laid waste to cities.

Skirmishes between Turks and Syrians have taken place in the past, with Turkish officials accusing Syrian planes of violating Turkish air space.

‘Unnecessary tensions’

Sajjan Gohel, international security director for the Asia-Pacific Foundation, a think tank, described the downing of the plane as “a very significant escalation.”

“It’s very much the last thing that’s needed right now, especially in the aftermath of the Paris attacks, when there was hope that Russia could form an alliance with France and with the United States against ISIS,” Gohel said. “This is going to complicate things. This is going to add unnecessary tensions that really weren’t required at this critical juncture.”

5 things to know about the downing of the Russian jet

He said the downing of the Russian plane would hamper efforts to form a united front against ISIS.

“This is a situation that unfortunately was almost inevitable at some point, because Turkey has long been accusing Russia of interfering in their airspace,” Gohel said. “They’ve threatened them in the past. And even though economic relations between the two countries are strong — politically, there have been tensions recently.”

Opinion: The hardest questions about fighting ISIS

Syria’s internal conflict has become a massive proxy war for numerous international powers, both in the region and outside it — a situation that has added to the perception that incidents such as Tuesday’s plane downing were inevitable.

Currently, the United States, Russia, France, Australia, the Gulf states, Turkey, Israel, Iran, Jordan and Hezbollah are involved, one way or another, in military activity in Syria.

War on ISIS: Who’s doing what?

In March 2014, Turkey shot down a Syrian fighter jet after the warplane strayed into its airspace, according to Erdogan, the current president, who was prime minister at the time.

“Our F-16s went up in the air and shot that plane down. Why? Because if you violate my airspace, then from now on, our slap will be hard,” Erdogan told supporters at a campaign rally in 2014.

But state-run media in Syria called it an act of “blatant aggression” and said the downed plane was over northern Syria at the time.

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