A plane crash which killed 97 people in Pakistan last month was because of human error by the pilots, who were discussing the coronavirus crisis during the landing, according to an initial report released Wednesday.
The Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) plane crashed into a crowded residential area on May 22 after both engines failed as it approached Karachi airport, killing all but two people on board.
PIA plane crash report blames human error
“The pilot, as well as the (air traffic) controller, didn’t follow the standard rules,” said Ghulam Sarwar Khan, the country’s aviation minister, announcing the findings in parliament.
He said the pilots had been discussing the deadly virus as they attempted to land the Airbus A320 and had disengaged the craft’s autopilot.
“The pilot and co-pilot were not focused and throughout they were having a conversation about corona. The [virus] was on their minds. Their families were affected and they were having a discussion about it,” Khan added.
“Unfortunately the pilot was overconfident,” the minister said.
The report found the plane was flying at more than twice the altitude it should have been when it approached the runway without the landing gear down.
Standard flight operating procedures were then ignored by the pilots and the air traffic controller, resulting in an aborted landing that heavily damaged the plane’s engines.
The aircraft went down as it attempted a second landing, crashing into a residential area near the airport.
PIA plane crash report found no technical fault
The investigation team, which included officials from the French government and the aviation industry, analysed cockpit data and voice recorders.
The full report is expected to be released at the end of the year, with advance analysis of the aircraft wreckage still ongoing.
The minister said the plane was “100 percent fit for flying, there was no technical fault”.
The crash damaged around 29 houses, the minister said, adding that the government would compensate residents for losses.
The investigation for the PIA plane crash report was done with the help of Turkey’s national carrier, Turkish Airlines.
Read more: Turkey to investigate PIA plane crash
Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan said in parliament that a “senior pilot” from Turkish Airlines would soon join the investigators to ascertain if the crash was the result of technical or human error on the part of the plane’s pilot, local broadcaster Geo News reported.
The International Federation of Air Line Pilots’ Association (Ifalpa) had approached the Pakistani authorities soon after the crash asking them to include a pilot investigator in their probe into the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) A320 crash that killed 97 of 99 passengers and crew members onboard in Karachi’s Model Colony area.
Aftermath of the crash
The county’s deadliest aviation accident in eight years came days after domestic commercial flights resumed following a two-month coronavirus lockdown.
Many passengers were on their way to spend the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr with loved ones.
Images from the scene showed buildings torn apart after the plane’s wings sliced through rooftops, sending flames and plumes of smoke into the air.
In a rescue operation that lasted until the next day, firefighters pulled bodies from the wreckage still wearing seatbelts.
Nobody on the ground was killed.
Relatives of victims of the illfated Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) flight PK-8304 criticised the Sindh government at a press conference at the Karachi Press Club on Saturday and shared how they had suffered at the hands of bureaucratic red tape in receiving the bodies of their loved ones.
The families demanded that DNA tests be conducted again on all the bodies buried on the basis of the results of the International Centre for Chemical and Biological Sciences (ICCBS), the University of Karachi. Dr Ahmed Murtuza had lost his brother, Mujtuba Murtuza, in the plane crash that happened on Friday, May 22, two days before Eidul Fitr, but he hasn’t received his body yet. The result of the DNA sample which his father had given twice to the ICCBS never came. Other families dispatched on their own his father’s sample to the Punjab Forensic Science Agency’s (PFSA) and received the result the same day.
Record of plane crashes in Pakistan
Pakistan has a chequered military and civilian aviation safety record, with frequent plane and helicopter crashes over the years.
In 2016, a PIA plane burst into flames after one of its two turboprop engines failed while flying from the remote north to Islamabad, killing more than 40 people.
The deadliest air disaster in Pakistan was in 2010 when an Airbus A321 operated by private airline Airblue and flying from Karachi crashed into the hills of Islamabad as it came in to land, killing all 152 people on board.
An official report blamed the accident on a confused captain and a hostile cockpit atmosphere.
PIA, one of the world’s leading airlines until the 1970s, now suffers from a sinking reputation due to frequent cancellations, delays and financial troubles.
It has been involved in numerous controversies over the years, including the jailing of a drunk pilot in Britain in 2013.
AFP with additional input by GVS News Desk
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