Pakistan plane crash pilots distracted by coronavirus concerns, says aviation minister

ISLAMABAD – Pilots of a Pakistani passenger plane that crashed last month, killing 97, were distracted and worried as they discussed the coronavirus pandemic as they prepared for an initial failed attempt to land, the minister said on Wednesday. of the country’s aviation.

The Airbus A320 of national airline Pakistan International Airlines crashed on May 22 in the southern city of Karachi, killing all but two of those on board when it fell about half a mile near the runway on its second attempt.

The aircraft’s engines touched the ground when it landed without wheels on the first attempt, before taking off again, Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan told parliament while presenting an initial report on the disaster.

Flight data showed that the landing gear was lowered to 10 nautical miles, Khan said, but then rose again to 5 nautical miles from the runway, which he described as “beyond comprehension.”

The plane was “100 percent fit to fly” and there was no technical failure, he said, but added that the pilots were not “focused” due to the pandemic.

“The discussion was about the crown,” said Khan, referring to the exchanges between the pilot and the co-pilot, who he said he heard on the cockpit voice recorder. “Corona was dominant over his mind. His family was affected.”

The report, reviewed by Reuters, does not detail the pilots’ conversation about the virus, but says they did not follow established protocols.

“Various warnings and alerts such as speeding, landing gear not down and proximity to ground alerts were disregarded,” he added. “The landing was made with the landing gear retracted. The plane touched the runway surface on its engines.”

The report said that the controllers authorized the aircraft to land without observing that the landing gear was not extended, nor was it transmitted to the pilots that the engines had scraped the runway.

He added that there was no demonstration of any malfunction in the landing gear system on flight PK8303, which took off from the eastern city of Lahore.

Shortly after the engines scraped the track and an attempt was made to make a turn, both engines failed one by one, according to the report.

“When the plane took off again, both engines had been damaged; and when the plane was approaching for a second landing it did not have that power and fell in the residential area,” Khan said at a press conference on Wednesday.

Khan said the captain and co-pilot, both killed, were experienced and in good medical condition.

Air traffic control drew the pilot’s attention to the irregularity and urged a turn, Khan said.

“They were warned by the controllers, but they said, ‘I will manage’ … and then they began to discuss the crown again.”

“The pilot’s last words were: ‘Oh God, oh God, oh God,'” Khan added.