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June 25, 2020

Crash report presented in NA: Corona was riding high on pilots' minds

Pakistan

June 25, 2020

Crash report presented in NA: Corona was riding high on pilots' minds

ISLAMABAD: Minister for Aviation Ghulam Sarwar Khan while presenting preliminary inquiry report into the PIA plane crash in Karachi in the National Assembly on Wednesday said the tragedy occurred due to human error and there was nothing technically wrong with the aircraft which fell on a population just before landing on May 22.

The minister said the report held pilot, co-pilot and air traffic controller responsible for the plane crash. He said the pilot and the co-pilot were not focused and their lack of concentration resulted in the plane crash. He told the House that pilot and co-pilot were discussing the Covid-19 because the pandemic had affected their families and were not paying attention to their work. The minister said that it was observed that the pilot who was over confident took the call very hurriedly and told the control tower that he would manage landing. He added that the recorder showed that even after taking the call, the pilots went back to their conversations about coronavirus.

Ghulam Sarwar said that the initial report pointed out that there was no technical fault with the aircraft and even the pilot had said the same in his conversation with the air traffic controllers. In the end, the pilot said ‘Ya Allah’ thrice.

The minister disclosed that the aircraft touched the runway thrice without the landing gear which caused damage to its engines. "When the plane took off again, both its engines had been damaged," he disclosed.

He added that the initial report mentioned that the plane’s data entry record showed that as the plane was 10 nautical miles from the runway, its landing gears had opened. “But the one thing that cannot be explained is that when the plane was five nautical miles away, the landing gears were pulled up. This action is also there in the data recorder,” said the minister

Ghulam Sarwar told the House that while assessing the two most “important evidences” from the flight data recorder of the DFDR, in which all actions of the plane are recorded, and the cockpit voice recorder, the “first irregularity” was noticed when the pilot approached the runway.

“The plane was supposed to be at the height of 2,500 feet at 10 nautical miles before coming near the runway. According to the initial report and the record, the plane was at a height of 7,220 feet. This is was the first irregularity,” said the minister.

He added that the air traffic controller (ATC) reminded the pilot thrice that his aircraft's height was much higher than the recommended limit and advised him not to take the landing position and instead, take another round of the airport.

"The pilots and the air traffic controllers both did not follow the protocol," he said. "The pilot ignored the instructions of the air traffic controllers and the ATC, on the other hand, did not inform the pilot about the engines' collision."

The minister said that when the pilot was informed about the dangerous height at which the aircraft was, he did not pay heed to it and said that it would be 'managed'.

“The fault was at both ends. The ATC was at fault as well when it saw the plane doing the touchdown on the engines and saw a fire erupting, it should have informed (the pilot) but the control tower did not. And when the pilot took off, both the engines were damaged by that time,” the minister said.

Ghulam Sarwar said that the pilot and the co-pilot were not focused and their lack of concentration had resulted in the plane crash. The minister added that the pilots were discussing the coronavirus as it had affected their families and were not paying attention to their job.

The minister said that it was observed that the pilot took the call “very hurriedly” and told the tower that he would “manage”. He added that recorder showed that even after taking the call the pilots went back to their conversations about coronavirus. He said the pilot then again requested another approach but unfortunately the approach he was given and the height he was given, the plane could not reach there and crashed on the civilian population.

The minister further said that the cabin crew and ATC were also responsible for the tragedy. "Those who have passed away, may God forgive them. Those who are alive and are responsible, will be held accountable," he added, promising that the complete investigation report will be presented in a year's time.

He said that the Bhoja air crash and the Air Blue tragedy had been caused as a result of the pilots' faults as well. The minister said that 40 percent of pilots were flying aircraft with fake licences.

“Pakistan has 860 active pilots, which includes PIA, Serene Air, Air Blue. The inquiry which was initiated in February 2019 showed that 262 pilots did not give the exam themselves and asked someone else to give it on their behalf,” the minister said, adding that the pilots did not have the proper flying experience either. He said pilots are also appointed on political basis, unfortunately, saying while appointing pilots, merit is ignored. “Degrees of four PIA pilots had been found to be fake,” he said.