Thursday, October 02, 2008

Pilot awarded Silver Cross for saying “no” to President

Poland’s Defence Minister has awarded the captain of the “Polish Air Force 1” Tu-154, carrying President Lech Kaczynski and the Baltic States leaders to the anti-Russian rally in Georgian capital in August, with the Silver Cross of Merit for refusing to change the flight schedule.

The captain of the Polish aircraft, with the presidents of Poland, Lithuania and Estonia and the Latvian PM on board, said “no” to President Lech Kaczynski when requested that he fly direct to Tbilisi instead of the originally planned destination of an airfield in Azerbaijan. The pilot decided that for safety reasons – Georgian airspace was in control of the Russians at the time - his aircraft should stick to the original schedule and, against Kaczynski’s wish, flew the top politicians to Azerbaijan.

To President Kaczynski’s distaste, the statesmen then had to travel from Azerbaijan to Tbilisi in a four hour car convoy.

Shortly after touchdown in Azerbaijan, the Polish President expressed his annoyance at the pilot’s “cowardice” and said he would hold him “responsible for his disobedience”.

"The pilot, who has been suffering from depression since the incident, is again on duty and has been awarded for his brave decision,” said Minister Klich.