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Plane crash probe: PIA admin, pilots faceoff

Top Story

May 27, 2020

Plane crash probe: PIA admin, pilots faceoff

KARACGHI: The pilot of the ill-fated Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) plane that crashed on Friday ignored warnings from air traffic control about the plane’s height and speed as the aircraft approached for landing, said a report from air traffic control. However, the pilots’ organisation had shown its anger over leaking the details and said that it is a conspiracy to divert the direction of the probe into the plane crash incident.

The PIA plane, with 99 people on board, crashed in Model Colony near Jinnah International Airport on Friday. Ninety-seven people have been confirmed dead, while two survived the crash miraculously.

The on-duty air traffic controller and the approach tower controller told the Air Investigation Board (AIB) in a written reply on Tuesday that the pilot of PK-8303 ignored the repeated instructions.

According to the air traffic control, the flight left the Lahore airport at 01 05 pm and was scheduled to land at the Jinnah International Airport in Karachi at 2 30pm.

“The plane had enough fuel in it to fly for two hours and 34 minutes while its total flying time was recorded at one hour and 33 minutes,” the report said. “At 2 30pm, the plane was 15 nautical miles from Karachi at Makli flying at an altitude of 10,000 feet above the ground instead of 7,000 when air traffic control issued its first warning to the pilot to lower the plane's altitude.”

Instead of lowering the plane's altitude, the pilot responded by saying that he was satisfied. “When only 10 nautical miles were left till the Karachi airport the plane was at an altitude of 7,000 feet instead of 3 000 feet,” the report said.

The report states that air traffic control issued a second warning to the pilot to lower the plane's altitude. However, the pilot responded again by stating that he was satisfied and would handle the situation saying he was ready for landing.

The ATC further said that the captain landed the plane for the first time without opening the landing gear. On the first landing, both engines collided with the runway and rubbed against it three times and caused sparking before the captain pulled the plane back up and asked for permission to land again.

Three long marks have been observed and recorded by the CAA s experts on the runway. However, Pakistan Airline Pilots Association (Palpa) protested over leaking the details and said that it was aimed at diverting the probe into an incident.

“The administration seems no more interested in conducting a thorough probe into the incident,” the Palpa said. “They wanted to save the real characters behind the incident.” The association said that the pilots also have questions to be asked from the air traffic control officials.

The Palpa leaders expressed their concern as to why a long route was designated for the ill-fated plane. “The air traffic control officials are trying to portray a wrong picture by merging details of first and second landing attempts from the plane,” the association said.

The pilots’ body demanded the authorities to fulfill the promise they committed with the father of martyred PIA Pilot Sajjad Gul regarding not leaking inquiry reports into the matter.

Major progress has been made in the investigation into the PIA plane crash incident as ATC and approach tower controllers submitted their written responses before the aircraft accident and investigation, it has learnT.

Meanwhile, aviation authorities said Tuesday they have shared their initial findings with the visiting 11-member team from the European plane maker.

The Airbus experts and engineers are also to visit the crash site, according to Abdul Hafeez, a spokesman for PIA. “We are providing all possible assistance to the technical experts of Airbus,” he said.

The plane made failed attempts to land at the Karachi airport before the crash. Authorities found the plane’s black box and have been guarding the crash site to facilitate the probe. The plane last received a government check last November. PIA’s chief engineer signed a separate certificate on April 28, confirming all maintenance had been conducted. Airbus has said the two-engine plane had logged 47,100 flight hours and 25,860 flights as of last Friday.

Meanwhile, rejecting the present probe body, the Sindh government has demanded constitution of a new committee to investigate the PIA plane crash incident in Karachi comprising representatives of PALPA, foreign aviators, international civil aviation experts and Airbus officials.

The demand to this effect was made by Sindh Information Minister Syed Nasir Hussain Shah, Education Minister Saeed Ghani and Energy Minister Imtiaz Shaikh while addressing a joint press conference here on Tuesday. Speaking on the occasion, Sindh Education and Labour Minister Saeed Ghani said that they had serious reservations about the committee constituted by the federal government to investigate the plane crash incident.

He demanded that incumbent chiefs of PIA and the Civil Aviation Authority should be suspended on immediate basis so that both the authorities could not influence the ongoing probe process.

He held the chiefs of PIA and CAA responsible for the plane crash incident as an open and transparent inquiry should be conducted to probe the incident. He said that the Sindh Building Control Authority and Cantonment authorities could also be involved in the probe process.

He said that officials who had been made part of the present probe committee had a direct link with the present PIA chief Arshad Malik. “Since the time this tragedy has occurred the chief of PIA Arshad Malik on one occasion said that bird hit was responsible for the plane crash incident on the other occasion he blamed the senior pilot for the air tragedy. What would be the purpose of this probe committee if he (the PIA chief) has already made up his mind,” he said.

To a question, he said that the chief executive officer of the PIA Arshad Malik had been attempting to hold the senior pilot of the fateful plane fully responsible for the air crash tragedy. He said that in the final moments before the crash voice of the captain exhibited no signs of nervousness in the recording of the communication between air traffic control and the plane.

He said that media had not been invited when the provincial authorities had gone to visit people affected by the plane crash incident. He said that the conduct of the Sindh government after the plane crash tragedy had been very responsible.

He said that Sindh government had offered to the family of the three women who had received burn injuries in the plane crash incident to get them treatment from any private hospital but they had expressed satisfaction over the treatment being provided to the injured ladies at the Burns Centre of Civil Hospital Karachi.

He said that Sindh cabinet members Syed Nasir Hussain Shah and Murtaza Wahab had met the injured women at the Burns Centre on the second day of Eidul Fitr.

Speaking on the occasion, Sindh Information and Local Government Minister Syed Nasir Hussain Shah said that the Sindh government’s own forensic laboratory of the international standard had been doing the analysis of the DNA samples obtained from the bodies of the plane crash victims. He said that they would start receiving results of the forensic analysis from the present night.

He said that unidentified bodies of all the leftover victims of the plane crash would be handed over to the bereaved families in next 10 days. He expressed gratitude to the area residents, volunteers of the various relief organizations, district administration, personnel of police, rangers, and army for conducting the emergency rescue operation in the immediate aftermath of the plane crash incident. He said that Sindh chief ministers and his cabinet members had immediately rushed to the site of the tragic incident after the crash incident.