THE MILITARY Antonov An-24 plane which crashed on January 19 close to the Hungarian village of Telkybánia, killing 42 Slovak soldiers and crew, was not equipped with a ground proximity warning system that might have alerted pilots to the fact they were flying dangerously low.
Defence Ministry officials said they had considered purchasing such a system, which shows pilots the terrain below them with the help of a satellite and an electronic map, but they had decided against it.
Ground proximity alarms are required equipment on civilian airplanes, but the An-24, as a military plane, did not have to have one.
"If they had had this system, it would have save them. The ministry should have ordered the system a long time ago," an unnamed pilot told the SME daily.
Ľudovít Mikuška from the Defence Ministry said that the ministry eventually decided not to buy the system because it believed that the "plane has such machinery that secures safe flights and landings".
Jaroslav Kuča, the main engineer of the army's air fleet, said that it would be mere speculation to say that the system could have prevented the accident.
The unprecedented military plane tragedy has already resulted in the resignation of Slovak Defence Minister Juraj Liška (see story page 1).
Authorities are continuing their investigation but it is unclear how long it will take before the causes of the tragedy are known.