Die Harder…to Believe

The always awesome Royal Surgeon Dr. J wrote the Czar to thank him for an unsually sensitive treatment of the Smolensk crash; but the good doctor—who attempted to cure the Czar’s hypovolemic shock with leeches, which wound up being a tad counter-productive—said when he first saw the news, he was briefly reminded of Die Hard 2: Die Harder.

While the good doctor meant that in a ruefully wry way, the Czar realized that some folks out there might be wondering about that. And sure enough, it did not take us long to find a USSR suX!!1!-themed website that suspects the Soviets simply rigged the ILS landing system to cause a crash, just like they did before World War II or whatever.

Look, the Czar knows the crash was tragic and horrific, but the causes of the crash are already pretty well known. There is no reason to suspect the zombified corpse of Stalin has broken free from his chains to order the destruction of the Polish government. For one thing, we called the Mandarin, and he just went downstairs to check, and no…the chains are still holding, nice and strong.

But could someone tamper with the instrument landing system and trick a pilot into crashing his plane—as was a key plot point in Die Hard 2? If you forgot the film, who could blame you. But the premise was that terrorists hacked into the Dulles/LAX airport systems and changed the radio frequency driven instrument landing system (ILS) to fool commercial pilots that the runway was 200 feet further away than it was. As a result, the pilot began his descent and slammed the plane into the ground, thinking he still had another 200 feet to go.

The reality is much more interesting. Today, of course, GPS rules aviation, and the ILS is not as worshipped as it once was. But back in the day, ILS was sacrosanct. And first, there is nothing to hack into: ILS is a radio frequency service. You could jam it, but not really hack into it.

And even if you could spoof an ILS signal to give a fake altitude, the pilot relies less on ILS than he or she would on basic instruments. This is one of the reasons that pilots are taught to rely on a handful of instruments, not just one. If the plane were suddenly 200 feet lower than it thought it was, the pilot would notice the error on his or her own altimeter. And the plane, on top of everything else, would issue a pull up terrain warning. All this stuff was in use when the movie was filmed.

So to the window lickers out there theorizing that the Russkies fudged the ILS to crash the Polish plane, you are way off base. And thanks to Dr. J to pointing these fools out to us. Remember: leave the conspiracy theories to the Gormogons. If there is any truth to the theory, then you know we are already behind it. And we are telling you: the Smolensk crash is a combination of bad weather and pilot error, not Bill Sadler.

About The Czar of Muscovy

Божію Поспѣшествующею Милостію Мы, Дима Грозный Императоръ и Самодержецъ Всероссiйскiй, цѣсарь Московскiй. The Czar was born in the steppes of Russia in 1267, and was cheated out of total control of all Russia by upon the death of Boris Mikhailovich, who replaced Alexander Yaroslav Nevsky in 1263. However, in 1283, our Czar was passed over due to a clerical error and the rule of all Russia went to his second cousin Daniil (Даниил Александрович), whom Czar still resents. As a half-hearted apology, the Czar was awarded control over Muscovy, inconveniently located 5,000 miles away just outside Chicago. He now spends his time seething about this and writing about other stuff that bothers him.