The pilot had attempted to land the plane about four times while trying to navigate heavy fog. It is thought that the plane hit some trees before it crashed, so it must have been flying really low. It crashed just one kilometer short of the runway just before 11am local time.
The biggest crash of a Tupolev-154 occurred on August 22, 2006, when one of those planes crashed in eastern Ukraine to try an emergency landing after being struck by lightning, which killed 169 people, 45 of them children.
The Tupolev-154 were produced since its first flight in 1968 almost a thousand units, many of which remain in service in Russia and the former Soviet republics.
This plane was operated by the Polish Air Force. It underwent engine maintenance and a complete new interior in December and was updated and modernized. It had logged about 5000 hours of flying time making 1800 flights. This is not considered a lot of flight time, but a plane that is meant to carry officials does not make unnecessary flights.
The Tupolev-154, which crashed outside Smolensk, Russia, was on its fourth attempt to land amid heavy fog. Several major crashes over recent years have occurred when pilots lost full awareness of their situation after repeated attempts to land, so investigators will seek to understand why the crew tried bring the plane down in such unfavorable conditions.
Some interesting facts about the Tupolev-154.
* The Tu-154 is the standard airliner on Russian domestic routes and in other states of the former Soviet Union and to a lesser extent in eastern Europe and Iran.
* It seats up to 180 passengers with 3-4 crew.
* It was Russia's answer to two Western aircraft of the 1960s which were also configured with three engines at the rear, the Boeing 727 and Britain's Hawker Siddeley Trident.
Despite being involved in more than 60 crashes over the last four decades, the Tupolev-154 plane that Polish President Lech Kaczynski was flying in when it crashed Russia Saturday morning is likely not to blame for the deadly incident, an aviation expert says.
Some Tupolev 154 plane crash pictures.