Tragedy on Margalla Hills one year on Pilot’s negligence, technical fault caused last year’s AirBlue crash: report

July 28, 2011

Islamabad: The investigation report of the AirBlue plane crash on Margalla Hills revealed that negligence of the pilot as well as technical fault caused the disaster, as the pilot could not judge he...

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Islamabad: The investigation report of the AirBlue plane crash on Margalla Hills revealed that negligence of the pilot as well as technical fault caused the disaster, as the pilot could not judge he had attained a very low altitude, sources in the Ministry of Interior told ‘The News’.
The investigation team, constituted by the government, completed investigation into the tragedy in April this year, but the government is avoiding to making the investigation report public and hiding its findings for unknown reasons, sources disclosed.
AirBlue Chairman Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, when contacted by this scribe for his comments, confirmed that the investigation report has been completed and handed over to the government some four months back but the government didn’t make it public yet. He, however, said that the plane crash occurred neither due to any technical fault nor it was an act of terrorism. “I haven’t read the investigation report but I can confirm that the crash didn’t occur due to any technical fault,” Abbasi said.
The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) had constituted a five-member committee, headed by Air Commodore Khawaja Abdul Majeed, Chairman Safety Investigation, to investigate into the plane crash.
One year back, on July 28, 2010, a commercial Air Blue airbus, coming from Karachi, crashed on the cloud-covered Margalla Hills, behind Faisal Mosque due to rough weather. All 152 people on board, including 7 minors — 146 passengers and 7 crew members — were killed in the crash. As many as 13 passengers, having confirmed tickets, had not boarded the plane at Karachi due to personal reasons.
Sources, quoting the insertions of the report, said that the captain was not attentive during the landing while the junior pilot was holding the operation. “As he felt the peril, he took over the control and tried to tackle the adverting situation but thick clouds had made visibility very low at the time and a heavy downpour was continuing and the aeroplane had lost height unexpectedly due to stalling speed. The captain had no option except to turn the plane to its extreme left but due to very low attitude it collided with the mountain’s lower peak.
“The aircraft sharply turned to its left and took awry and uneven pose as its wings took vertical position but could not attain the required height to cross over the hilltops and its left wing collided with the lower peak of a mountain first and then whole plane rammed into the mountain turning it into pieces.”
An expert told ‘The News’ that the investigation team had to reconstruct the pieces of the aircraft to know the real cause of crash but they didn’t reassemble the pieces as the pieces scattered in the radius of one kilometre down and over the hills, could not be gathered properly.
What was the internal situation of the plane and how the passengers reacted before the crash? The recording of the Black Box could not be heard completely, sources said and added that some part of the Black Box could be read by the foreign experts describing hue and cry of the passengers started a few minutes before the crash that later increased at the last moment when the plane took sharp left turn and its wings took vertical position.
“The Black Box recording didn’t depict any sign of terrorism in the plane crash,” sources disclosed, adding that no significant technical fault was found in the Black Box recording or during the course of investigation.
The investigation, conducted primarily, said the pilot might be suffering from accumulated fatigue because he was not given adequate leave.
The preliminary report said the route was not a no-fly zone, as was being speculated. The plane exceeded the safety distance due to bad weather. The decision was taken by the pilot who could not determine the appropriate landing route and the ISL system’s access ended a little before Islamabad and the pilot had to resort to visual queues for landing.
Airbus A320 of Air Blue’s flight 202 took off from Karachi Airport at 7:42 a.m. with 12 minutes delay carrying 152 people, including crew members, on board. The flight reached before time at 9:30 a.m. and the pilot approached the control tower of Benazir Bhutto International Airport seeking direction for landing, the report said, adding that due to the rough weather, the control tower asked the pilot to land from the Margalla Hill side. The pilot followed the direction and turned the direction to Margalla Hills that resulted in the disaster.
The flight departed from Karachi airport at 7:50 a.m. for Islamabad. Minutes before the landing, it suddenly lost contact with the control tower of the Islamabad Airport. After a while the plane crashed.
The report, quoting the eyewitness accounts, said people noticed airbus flying at very low altitude and soon they heard a loud explosion and smoke coming out from the site. Smoke was seen on the Margalla Hills by people of Islamabad for hours.
The report, quoting Civil Aviation Authority officials, mentioned that the pilot tried to land at Islamabad on schedule at 9:30 a.m. but was asked to wait because the airport was busy. The aircraft had disappeared from radar screens shortly before the crash was reported, it added.
The captain of the ill-fated AirBlue flight ED-202, crashed into the Margalla Hills, was Pervez Iqbal Chaudhary and he was 64 years, 5 months and 11 days old when the plane crash incident happened, said in the report.
Mr. Chaudhary joined AirBlue some four years back after getting retirement from PIA, the report said, adding that he was going to retire at the age 65 because the pilot over the age of 65, cannot do this job. The report said that the co-pilot, Mujtadeen Chughtai was inexperienced and it was his second flight.
First Officer Muntajib Ahmad was co-pilot of the Air Blue ED-202. He was ex-GD Pilot of PAF, while five hostesses — Hina Usman, Umme Habiba, Naheed Bhatti, Shazia Razzaq and Javeriya Faraz — were among the crew members.
Newly married couple — Awais Khan and Rumasa Khan, who married on July 23, 2010 and going to celebrate their honeymoon — and six members of Youth Parliament — Hassan Javed Khan (Youth Prime Minister), Syeda Rabab Zehra Naqvi (Youth Information Minister), Prem Chand (Youth Minister for Culture, Sports and Youth Affairs), Bilal Nasir Jamaee (Youth Shadow Minister for Information), Owais bin Laiq (Member Youth Parliament Standing Committee on Information) and Syed Arsalan Ahmad (Member Youth Parliament Standing Committee on Information) — were among 152 dead persons.
The last major plane crash in Pakistan was in July 2006 when a twin-engine Fokker F-27 of Pakistan International Airlines crashed on the outskirts of Multan, killing all 45 people on board.
The only previous recorded accident for Air Blue was a tail-strike in May 2008 at Quetta airport by one of the airline’s Airbus 321 jets. There were no casualties.

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