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Tuesday June 18, 2024

May 22, 2020 air crash: PIA says implementing inquiry report recommendations

In February this year, an investigation into the air disaster by the Aircraft Accident Investigation Board (AAIB) determined the crash occurred due to human error

By News Desk
May 23, 2024
An aeroplane of the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) is seen in this photo. — AFP/File
An aeroplane of the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) is seen in this photo. — AFP/File

KARACHI: May 22 marks the fourth anniversary of the PIA plane crash into a residential area just a kilometre away from the runway of Karachi Airport, killing 97 people and injuring two others.

A BBC report has recalled the details of the inquiry report, highlighting the flight pilots’, especially captain’s, reckless actions flouting the safety protocols and ignoring air traffic controller’s cautions. In February this year, an investigation into the air disaster by the Aircraft Accident Investigation Board (AAIB) determined the crash occurred due to human error. However, relatives of many deceased passengers were not satisfied with these findings. On Friday, May 22, 2020, the ill-fated PIA flight PK 8303, with 91 passengers and eight crew members onboard, took off from Lahore Airport at 1:10pm for Karachi.

The Airbus A320 aircraft attempted to land at Karachi Airport at 2:37 pm, but due to a rough landing, the captain attempted a go-around. However, the plane could not complete the second landing attempt and crashed into the densely populated neighbourhood of Jinnah Garden.

The AAIB report, available on the Aviation Ministry’s website, stated the crash occurred because both engines of the plane shut down due to human error. The report also indicated multiple failures and miscommunications.

Before the initial landing attempt, the air traffic controller (ATC) had warned the captain four times the aircraft’s altitude was too high. However, on the fifth communication, the ATC cleared the landing. During the first landing attempt, the plane’s engines hit the runway and gave off sparks, but the ATC failed to inform the pilot. Due to the impact, both engines were affected as the system supplying lubricant oil to them malfunctioned. The report highlighted a lack of communication and coordination between the pilots and the ATC. CCTV footage showed the aircraft’s landing gear was not deployed during the landing attempt. The captain communicated with the control tower for one minute and 16 seconds during the runway turn and go-around, reporting that the landing gear was jammed and the engines had failed.

He called “May Day” twice before the plane disappeared from the radar screen. The plane then crashed.

In the 160-page report, the cause of the accident was attributed to human error, but the families of the victims continue to demand a fair and transparent inquiry, claiming discrepancies between the report and accounts from eyewitnesses.

A PIA spokesperson told the BBC the report has been carefully reviewed, and now PIA has implemented the recommendations given in the report and with the help of its experts, international rules and regulations to make its flights safer. Light has laid down rules and regulations which are strictly enforced.

The spokesman further said apart from a full medical check-up of the crew, it also includes psychological testing and maintenance of the ships.

He said the 58-year-old captain of the aircraft had been working with PIA for 24 years, while the 33-year-old first officer with about 10 years of experience was the flying pilot of the flight while the captain was monitoring him.

The final investigation report states that according to records, the captain had no social or psychological problems, but failed a psychological test at the time of his recruitment in 1996.

Psychologists at the PIA said the captain had a domineering nature, but five other psychologists (three of whom were from the UK) were also consulted. , who qualified him to become a cadet pilot.

The PIA did not accept the opinion of any psychologist other than its approved list, so the captain requested a change in policy from the federal ombudsman, who ruled in his favour. It should be noted that he was not diagnosed with any mental health problem during his service in PIA.