PIA plane was fully fit, pilots not focused, minister tells NA

Says both cockpit crew, air traffic controller responsible: 262 out of 860 pilots in Pakistan have fake degrees

By: News Desk      Published: 01:05 PM, 24 Jun, 2020
PIA plane was fully fit, pilots not focused, minister tells NA

Federal Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan on Wednesday said the ill-fated PIA Airbus was fully fit for flying and both the pilots and the air traffic controller were responsible for the May 22 Karachi plane crash.

Addressing the National Assembly where he presented a preliminary report on the incident, Ghulam Sarwar said the cockpit crew – pilot and co-pilot were not fully focused and remained busy in talking about the coronavirus pandemic and how their family members had been infected by the virus, he told the House.

He said both engines had been badly damaged during the botched landing attempt but the pilots did not pay attention to the air traffic controller’s warning against landing without gaining altitude (go-around), claiming that they would manage the situation. The two pilots ignored the instructions given by the air traffic controller, said the aviation minister.

Promising that the people responsible for the deadly plane crash, who are alive, won’t be spared, the aviation minister said the plane, which had successfully completed seven flights after restoration of operations, was locked on auto-landing. The pilots too were fully fit medically fit before the flight, he added.

Ghulam Sarwar said the last words of the pilot were “Ya Allah khair” (O’Allah have Mercy). The pilot, he added, was warned by the air traffic controller thrice.

But the cockpit voice recorder also revealed that the air traffic controller did not warn the pilot about the fire caught by the plane, said the minister.

"Unfortunately the pilot was overconfident," the minister said, adding that the plane was flying at more than double the altitude it should have been when he approached to land.

Standard flight operating procedures were then ignored by the pilots and the air traffic controller, resulting in an aborted crash landing that heavily damaged the plane's engines.

The aircraft then went down as it attempted a second landing, crashing into a residential area near the Karachi airport.

The Pakistani investigation team, which included officials from the French government and the aviation industry, analysed data and voice recorders.

The minister said the plane was "100 percent fit for flying, there was no technical fault".

 He recalled that the plane crashes involving the Airblue and Bhoja Air were also a result of the negligence shown by the pilots, adding that the appointments had been made in the airline on political basis.

Out of the 860 pilots in Pakistan, the degrees of 262 of them were found to be fake, said the minister, adding that how they could tell the world that 40 percent of the country’s pilots had bogus degrees.

He said show-cause notices were issued to 28 pilots and nine of them had admitted that they filed bogus documents. “No one would be forgiven. This issue shouldn’t be politicised. It is a matter of national security,” said the aviation minister who added that the PIA would be restructured, not privatised.

Pakistan has a chequered military and civilian aviation safety record, with frequent plane and helicopter crashes over the years.

In 2016, a Pakistan International Airlines plane burst into flames after one of its two turboprop engines failed while flying from the remote north to Islamabad, killing more than 40 people.

The deadliest air disaster on Pakistani soil was in 2010, when an Airbus A321 operated by private airline Airblue and flying from Karachi crashed into the hills of Islamabad as it came into land, killing all 152 people on board.

An official report blamed the accident on a confused captain and a hostile cockpit atmosphere.

PIA, one of the world's leading airlines until the 1970s, now suffers from a sinking reputation due to frequent cancellations, delays and financial troubles.

It has been involved in numerous controversies over the years, including the jailing of a drunk pilot in Britain in 2013.