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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

PIA plane recorder found; will aid in investigation: Aviation Minister

Officials investigating the ill-fated flight PK8303 have announced that they found the plane's recorder, which will help them enormously in their fact-finding mission. Meanwhile, the Aviation Minister also promises reparations for those affected by the disaster.

Investigators scouring the site of a crashed Pakistani airliner said that the PIA plane recorder had been found on Thursday and hope it will answer why pilots had failed at an initial landing attempt.

The Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) plane came down among houses on May 22 after both engines failed as it approached Karachi airport, killing 97 people on board. Two passengers survived.

Investigators found the plane’s black box flight recorder two days after the crash.

PIA plane’s recorder found, French team to investigate: Aviation Minister 

Pakistan’s aviation minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan said a French-led investigation team would analyse the Airbus A320’s recorders.

“We have found the voice recorder and data (black box) recorder, and the French authorities will take them with them,” Khan told a press conference.

Questions are swirling over the ill-fated Flight 8303, during which the pilot made an initial landing attempt when the plane briefly made contact with the ground multiple times, before going around for a second attempt.

“It is a million-dollar question as to why the pilot chose to fly back after touching the ground,” Khan said.

How do blackboxes aid in air-crash investigations?

The blackbox is a crucial piece of a crash’s puzzle, and is of immeasurable help in piecing together the information to construct a coherent picture of the scene.

It helps provide crucial information on the actions of the plane, which would have been retrieved from the flight data recorder. The flight data recorder stores information about the plane’s movements such as how fast the plane was traveling, the direction the plane was flying in, movement of the different wing flaps, fuel gage data, how high the plane was, whether the plane was on autopilot,

Additionally, flight data recorders also record the times at which these actions occurred. This allows investigators to input this data into a system that connects it together and creates a video of what may have happened.

Moreover, investigators also listen to the recordings captured by the cockpit voice recorder. This equipment stores the previous two hours of the flight and is designed to not only record the communication taking place between pilot and co-pilot, but noises occurring in the background. When the black box is found, trained investigators listen closely to this recorder to understand what the plane’s engine was doing.

Lastly, while the data from the black box can help investigators determine what led to the plane crash, it can also be used as evidence to prove negligence on the part of the airline. In the case that a person was on a flight which crashed due to mistakes made by the crew or from mechanical failure, the person’s family could use the information revealed by the black box to seek compensation.

Now that the PIA plane’s recorder has been found, it is hoped that it would help investigators decipher the reasons behind the crash.

PK8303: was crash a pilot error?

Experts have raised the possibility pilots had initially tried to land the Airbus without first lowering the wheels.

PIA previously said that air traffic control lost contact with the plane, which was travelling from Lahore, just after the pilot made a desperate mayday call following the failed initial landing attempt.

In that call, he can be heard announcing “we have lost engines”, according to an audio recording confirmed by the airline.

Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan said the captain, Sajjad Gull, had been described by the airline as a senior A320 pilot with extensive flight experience.

The plane had first entered service in 2004 and was acquired by PIA a decade later and had logged around 47,100 flight hours, Airbus said in a statement.

On board the aircraft were 91 passengers, six cabin crew and two pilots. There were no fatalities on the ground.

A preliminary crash report was expected to be made public June 22 in a parliamentary session, Khan said.

He added that 12 to 15 houses had been badly damaged in the crash, and that the government would compensate residents for property losses.

Pakistan has a chequered military and civilian aviation safety record, with frequent plane and helicopter crashes over the years.

Now that the PIA plane’s recorder has been found, it is hoped that it would shed further light on the situation, especially moments before the crash.

Survivor recounts moments before crash

“After it hit and I regained consciousness, I saw fire everywhere and no one was visible,” Mohammad Zubair, survivor of ill-fated flight PK8303, said from his hospital bed in a video clip circulated on social media.

“There were cries of children, adults and elderly. The cries were everywhere and everybody was trying to survive. I undid my seat belt and I saw some light and tried to walk towards it. Then I jumped out.”

Read more: PK8303: Survivor recounts the moments before crash

Zubair had suffered burns but was in a stable condition, a health ministry official said.

The airline named the other survivor as the president of the Bank of Punjab, Zafar Masud.

Investigators find currency worth 30m from wreckage

Investigators and rescue officials have found around Rs 30 million in cash in the wreckage of the Pakistan International Airlines’ aircraft that crashed with 99 people on board, killing 97 people.

Investigators and rescue officials have found currencies of different countries and denominations worth around Rs. 30 million from the aircraft’s wreckage, an official said on Thursday.

“An investigation has been ordered into how such a huge amount of cash got through airport security and baggage scanners and found its way into the ill-fated flight,” the official said. He said that the amount was recovered from two bags in the wreckage. Some major Pakistani news outlets have misreported his statement as ‘illegal’ money which was then picked up by Indian newspapers as well.

Read more: PM Khan briefed about PIA plane crash investigation as black box found

The PIA official said that such an amount cannot be transported without informing the airline and that an extra seat ticket needs to be purchased for transporting such huge amounts of cash. “A passenger cannot carry it in their luggage or cabin baggage.”

Pakistan: a doubtful aviation safety record

Pakistan has a chequered military and civilian aviation safety record, with frequent plane and helicopter crashes over the years. Needless to say, PK8303 isn’t the first.

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 on Pakistani soil was in 2010 when an Airbus A321 operated by private airline Airblue and flying from Karachi crashed into the hills outside 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, a leading airline until the 1970s, has seen its reputation sink 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