What Is The Latest On The PIA A320 Crash?

It’s been two days since a Pakistan International Airlines Airbus A320 crashed in Karachi on the cusp of Eid-al-Fitr. The aircraft was carrying 99 passengers and crew, only two of whom survived the tragedy. An inquiry into the incident was immediately launched with a two to three-day window for information. 48 hours on, here’s what we know…

AP-BLD crashed in housing on 22nd May. Photo: Shadman Samee via Wikimedia Commons

What happened?

On 22nd May, a Pakistan International Airlines A320 crashed into houses in Model Colony, Karachi. The aircraft had been attempting to land at Jinnah International Airport after traveling from Lahore. However, after a failed attempt and a go-around, the pilot lost control of the aircraft, and it plummeted into housing.

At the time, an immediate inquiry was launched into the cause of the crash, while on-scene responders recovered bodies and looked for survivors.

A full investigation into the crash is not expected to be available for another three months. However, initial findings have now been revealed. Yet, there are a plethora of questions that still need answering.

Initial report findings are inconclusive

The obvious primary line of inquiry for the four-member inquiry board is: what prompted the A320’s crash? Investigations have found that the aircraft attempted to land on runway 25L at Jinnah International Airport three times before pulling up back into the air for the final time.

While the pilot was in communication with Air Traffic Controllers at the airport, it is thought that the Senior Controller was not aware of any issue with the aircraft. The flight had been without problem, but on landing, it is believed that the landing gear would not deploy. It wasn’t until the failed landing and subsequent go-around that ATC officials became aware of this issue.

Just 12 seconds separate the moment that crews informed the ATC tower that both engines had been lost and the mayday call. After this, the aircraft lost altitude, colliding with residential buildings.

Initial findings have suggested that the fuel pump and oil tank may have been damaged on the aircraft’s attempt to land. While it appears that the belly of the plane did not connect with the tarmac, evidence suggests that the engines did, and could have been damaged in the process.

The engines were not responding

It is believed that the A320’s engines were not responding to input from the pilot. Having partially touched the ground, the aircraft could not gain the altitude that it needed. ATC responders asked the aircraft to maintain 3,000ft. The plane could not, and the pilot asked for a 2,000ft clearance, according to FlightGlobal.

Investigators presume that leaking fuel could have contributed to the inability to gain significant thrust. In a video shared on social media, the aircraft is seen descending into Model Colony with a high nose as though it were attempting to ascend.

AP-BLD was traveling from LHE to KHI when it crashed. Photo: Great Circle Mapper

However, officials are also pursuing another line of inquiry; could human-error be to blame?

Communication breakdown may have contributed

From the wreckage, the flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder have been recovered from the aircraft. Both of these pieces of evidence should provide additional information surrounding the communication between crews onboard and ATC responders.

There are questions surrounding why ATC controllers did not know about the issues sooner and why the pilot took the matter into his own hands. No further information has yet been shared about this line of inquiry.

Two survivors, 19 identified

Unfortunately, the tragedy and confusion continue to follow the human side of PIA’s PK8303 flight. 97 bodies have been recovered from the area surrounding the wreckage. It is unclear if all of these individuals were on the aircraft due to the nature of where the plane landed.

Wreckage of PK8303
Identifying those on board has been a difficult task. Photo: Getty Images

Of those recovered, just 19 identities have been confirmed. Due to burns sustained as a result of the crash, it has been difficult for bodies to be identified. As a result, the University of Karachi has stepped in to help the efforts. It is processing samples from the deceased to confirm their identities. The results of this testing are expected in 21 days.

Miraculously, two passengers seated in seat 1C and 10C survived the incident and are being treated in hospital. One is a 24-year-old mechanical engineer, and the other the President of the Bank of Punjab. Pakistani politician Saeed Ghani has visited the survivors.

More information will become available about the incident in the coming weeks.

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