24 June, 2020

Initial report cites human error in PIA crash in May.

Photo EPA
An initial report into the crash of a Pakistan International Airlines - PIA  Airbus A320 that was flying from Lahore to Karachi with 99 people on board has cited human error as the cause of the disaster.

The interim report, released on Wednesday says human error by the pilot and air traffic control operator caused the crash which claimed the lives of  97 people on 22nd May this year. 

Ghulam Sarwar Khan, Pakistan's Aviation Minister said: "The pilot as well as the controller didn't follow the standard rules," during a parliamentary session where the report's findings were announced.

Khan told the politicians the pilots were discussing the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic as they attempted to land the aircraft. "The pilot and co-pilot were not focused and throughout the conversation was about coronavirus," 

The minister also said the aircraft was airworthy with no mechanical malfunctions, "100 percent fit for flying, there was no technical fault".

Detailing one exchange between the aircraft and air traffic controller (ATC)  Khan said, when the ATC warned the pilots that their aircraft was flying too high, one of them hurriedly responded with he "will manage" and "returned to talking about corona".

The investigation team, which also includes members of the French air crash investigation team and government officials found the aircraft was flying at a little over 7,000 feet around 15 km away from the runway at Karachi when it should have been at an altitude of approximately 2,500 feet.

Another error according to local media concerned the landing gear, the pilots raised an already lowered landing gear when the aircraft was on its first approach to the airport. The airport was just 10 kilometres away at the time, which Khan said was "beyond comprehension". 

The first attempt at landing was very steep, coming in at an angle of around 60 degrees and because they had raised the gear moments earlier,  the aircraft touched down on its engines and bounced approximately three times before the pilots aborted the landing.

Khan said the full investigation report would be made available in a year and would include details from a recording taken during the rapid descent.

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