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Tuesday April 16, 2024

May 2020 plane crash: Investigation report says ‘human error’ caused mishap

Report reveals that the pilot warned four times by the air traffic controller before landing

By Tariq Abul Hasan
February 25, 2024
Firefighters spray water on the wreckage of a Pakistan International Airlines aircraft after it crashed at a residential area in Karachi on May 22, 2020. —AFP
Firefighters spray water on the wreckage of a Pakistan International Airlines aircraft after it crashed at a residential area in Karachi on May 22, 2020. —AFP

KARACHI: The final report released by the Aircraft Accident Investigation Board sheds light on the causes behind the tragic crash of Pakistan International Airline's (PIA) Airbus A320 nearly four years ago in Karachi.

Released after an extensive investigation, the report attributes the disaster, which resulted in the loss of at least 99 lives on May 22, 2020, to "human error."

The incident, now identified as the third most catastrophic aviation disaster in Pakistan's history, claimed the lives of passengers, crew members, and two local residents near the crash site. Among the grim statistics, only two individuals, the then chief executive of the Bank of Punjab and a young engineer, survived the crash.

The report revealed that the pilot was warned four times by the air traffic controller before landing that the plane was at extraordinary altitude, however the fifth time the traffic controller allowed the plane’s landing. The findings say that there was a lack of communication and harmony between the two pilots and air traffic controllers.

“During the aircraft’s first landing, the two pilots were not focused. Making approach for the first landing, the airplane’s landing gears were opened, however right at the landing time one of the pilots again closed the landing gear. Hence, the plane made an attempt for landing without opening the landing gears for the first time, during which its engines struck the runway which ignited flames,” the report said adding that the air traffic controller did not inform the pilots about the engine’s striking the ground and emitting flames.

Both the engines were affected due to this. The system that provides lubricant oil to both engines had gone out of order after the engine thudded the runway. Following this both the engines stopped at the same time.

The findings revealed that data from the plane’s last four minutes could not be recorded as engine failure cut the electricity supply. The report has levelled the administrative responsibility for the accident on the PIA and Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority as well.

The report mentioned that rules of the Civil Aviation Authority regarding the pilots’ flying plane while fasting were not evident.

“Flight data analysis after every flight in the PIA is not being followed by the FDA. Due to a lack of flight data analysis, mistakes of pilots related to flight procedures are not revealed. Because of this attention is not paid to correcting these mistakes,” the report concluded.

On May 22, 2020, the ill-fated PIA flight PK 8303 flew from Lahore to Karachi on the afternoon of Friday in Ramadan, with 99 people including passengers and crew on board. 97 people were killed in the accident, two passengers miraculously survived. Two people were also killed on the ground when the plane fell on the population in Karachi’s Model Town area.