–Officials claim pilot didn’t give emergency landing message, scraped the ground thrice during first attempt
–Airbus team visits crash site, provides technical assistance to Pakistani investigators
–PALPA protests probe info ‘leak’, asks why a long route was designated for ill-fated plane
KARACHI: The on-duty air traffic controller and the approach tower controller have reportedly told the Air Investigation Board (AIB) that the pilot of PK-8303, Sajjad Gul, ignored repeated instructions, causing the death of 97 people in a subsequent crash near Karachi airport last week.
The written replies to the AIB stated that on May 22, PK 8303 was handled by the Approach Tower Controller from Lahore to Karachi. The task of landing the aircraft was then transferred to ATC, 10 nautical miles before landing. They claimed that the captain ignored instructions given 10 nautical miles before landing.
The approach controller said that before landing, when the plane is usually at an altitude of 1,800 feet, the captain was flying at an altitude of 3,000 feet and even after repeated instructions, Captain Gul maintained that he would manage altitude and speed before landing.
The ATC further said that the captain landed the plane for the first time without opening the landing gear. On the first landing, both engines collided with the runway at least three times before the captain pulled the plane back up and asked for permission to land again.
According to reports, the investigation team questioned the ATC and the approach tower controllers whether the captain had signaled for an emergency landing, to which they replied that the captain did not declare to attempt an emergency landing.
The Karachi-bound jet was 15 nautical miles from the Jinnah International Airport, flying at an altitude of 10,000 feet above the ground instead of 7,000 when the ATC issued its first warning to lower the plane’s altitude, they said. However, instead of lowering the altitude, the pilot responded by saying that he was satisfied. When only 10 nautical miles were left till the airport, the plane was at an altitude of 7,000 feet instead of 3,000 feet, it said. The ATC issued a second warning to the pilot to lower the plane’s altitude to which he again said that he would handle the situation.
The report said that the plane had enough fuel to fly for two hours and 34 minutes, while its total flying time was recorded at one hour and 33 minutes.
The investigators are trying to find out if the crash is attributable to a pilot error or a technical glitch.
According to a previous report prepared by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), the plane’s engines had scraped the runway thrice on the pilot’s first attempt to land, causing friction and sparks recorded by the experts.
When the aircraft scraped the ground on the first failed attempt at landing, the engine’s oil tank and fuel pump may have been damaged and started to leak, preventing the pilot from achieving the required thrust and speed to raise the aircraft to safety, the report said.
The pilot made a decision “on his own” to undertake a “go-around” after he failed to land the first time. It was only during the go-around that the ATC was informed that landing gear was not deployed, it said.
Experts said that the failure to achieve the directed height indicates that the engines were not responding. The aircraft, thereafter, tilted and crashed suddenly.
The flight crashed at the Jinnah Garden area near Model Colony in Malir on Friday afternoon, minutes before its landing. 11 persons on the ground were injured.
The probe team, headed by Air Commodore Muhammad Usman Ghani, President of the Aircraft Accident and Investigation Board, is expected to submit a full report in about three months.
AIRBUS TEAM BEGINS PROBE:
Meanwhile, an 11-member investigating team of Airbus reached Karachi from France to probe into the PIA plane crash.
The specialists visited the crash site in Model Colony and also provided technical assistance to their Pakistani counterparts to probe the reasons for the crash.
Aviation authorities said they have shared their initial findings with the visiting team.
“We are providing all possible assistance to the technical experts of Airbus,” said Abdul Hafeez, a spokesperson for PIA.
Hafeez also said that the cockpit voice recorder of the ill-fated flight PK-8303 was yet to be found, adding that hectic efforts were being made to recover it.
The airline spokesperson said that the recorder might have fallen into one of the houses in Model Colony area. He requested the residents to hand it over to the authorities if they found it in their houses.
“Voice recorder is important for the plane crash inquiry,” he said.
The airline had on Saturday said that the black box of the jetliner was found, which included both the flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder.
PALPA PROTESTS PROBE LEAK:
Meanwhile, the Pakistan Airline Pilots Association (PALPA) on Tuesday protested against the alleged leak of details of a probe into the plane crash.
“The administration seems no more interested in conducting a thorough probe into the incident,” PALPA claimed in a statement, adding that the leak was aimed at diverting the investigation into the incident that claimed lives of 97 people onboard except two survivors. “They want to save the real characters behind the incident,” it alleged.
The association said that the pilots also have questions to be asked from the air traffic control officials.
They asked why a long route was designated for the ill-fated plane. “The air traffic control officials are trying to portray a wrong picture by merging details of first and second landing attempts of the plane,” PALPA said.