The investigation into the devastating PIA crash last month has published some initial findings. Essentially, the report suggests that the aircraft was fit to fly and that the weather through all stages of the trip was fine. Although the investigation is ongoing, the preliminary report suggests that pilot error was to blame.
A devastating crash
May 22nd took a devastating turn of events when reports began to emerge that a passenger plane had crashed in Pakistan. A domestic flight operated by Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), PK8303, was traveling from Lahore to Karachi when the Airbus A320 came down in a residential area near Jinnah International Airport.
The 91 passengers and crew of eight were all killed in the crash, apart from two people who miraculously survived the wreck. As expected, the government opened a full probe into the cause of the crash, which was due to be presented to parliament on June 22nd. However, the report was handed directly to Prime Minister Imran Khan.
The initial findings of the report suggested that there were no technical issues with the plane, and that the weather was fit for flight. However, it pointed to mistakes made by the cockpit crew, control tower personnel and air traffic control as contributing to the crash.
Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan presented the preliminary report today before the National Assembly. As reported by the Tribune, he said that,
“The pilot and the ATC did not follow the procedure. The plane was 100 percent okay.”
Distracted with coronavirus
Khan stated that the pilots were not focused on the job because they were distracted with talk about the coronavirus. He told the Assembly that,
“In the last half hour, the pilots’ discussion was about coronavirus; they were not focused as their families were affected.”
A Reuters reporter based in Pakistan further elaborated on this:
I heard the cockpit recording myself, especially the last 30 minutes. Throughout the discussion was on corona. The pilot and co-pilot were not focused. Their family was affected by the virus – Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar to parliament.#PK8303
— Gibran Peshimam (@gibranp) June 24, 2020
These distractions might have contributed to the series of events that led to the crash of the plane. However, ATC and the airport tower controller are also implicated in the mistakes.
How events unfolded
According to the preliminary report, the aircraft’s first attempt at landing was outside of the normal parameters. Autoland was engaged but was subsequently disengaged by the pilot. The aircraft was supposed to descend at 30 degrees but approached the runway at 60 degrees.
The report says that the control tower should not have permitted landing at the speed and altitude in play. There was also a failure on the part of the air traffic control, as they didn’t provide the radio frequency to the tower.
In a bizarre twist, the aircraft’s landing gear was lowered when the plane was 10 nautical miles out from the landing strip. However, the gear was incomprehensively raised again at around five nautical miles out. This caused the aircraft to land on its engines.
It seems that the landing gear was jammed at this point. The pilot failed to inform the control tower that the gear wasn’t lowering. Following the first landing attempt, the aircraft stayed in the air for 17 minutes, during which time both of its engines failed.
The final report on the crash will be presented a year from now, according to the Aviation Minister.