Pilots of a Pakistani passenger jet that crashed last month, killing 97 people on board, were concerned and distracted by the coronavirus pandemic as they chatted about the error, trying to land on wheels even on their first attempt, according to an initial official report. about the disaster
The Pakistan International Airlines plane crashed into a residential area near Jinnah International Airport in Karachi on May 22, just days after the country lifted coronavirus restrictions and resumed domestic flights ahead of a major Muslim holiday that marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan.
Only two people survived the crash of the Airbus A320, which was carrying 91 passengers and eight crew members. A 13-year-old neighborhood girl was seriously injured and later died in a hospital.
On Wednesday, Pakistan’s aviation minister blamed the “human error” of the cabin crew and air traffic controllers who saw the plane’s two engines scrape the runway with a shower of sparks, but did not tell the pilots.
Investigators determined the plane was more than double the correct altitude when it first approached the runway, according to the report.
The severely damaged engines failed when the pilots attempted a second landing, according to the findings.
“The pilot and the controller did not follow the standard rules,” Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan said when he announced the findings in parliament.
He said that the captain, who had been discussing the pandemic with the first officer, ignored the controller’s instructions during the landing attempt.
“The pilot and co-pilot were not focused and they had a conversation the whole time about the coronavirus,” said Khan.
According to the voice recorder, the pilots had discussed the coronavirus, which had apparently affected their families, throughout the flight, according to the report.
The accident occurred when the crew tried to land a second time and the traffic controller told the pilot three times that the plane was too low to land, but he refused to listen, saying that he would succeed, Khan said.
Khan later told reporters that when the plane approached for a second landing, it lacked enough power, but the pilots “started arguing about the crown again.”
A few minutes before the crash, the pilot declared an emergency and stated that both engines had failed, Khan said.
“The pilot’s last words were: ‘Oh God! Oh God! Oh God, ‘”he added.
Khan said the plane “had no technical glitches” before the accident and that the extremely experienced pilots were healthy, but “due to overconfidence and lack of concentration,” the tragedy took place.
The minister also cited a troubling review of the pilots’ credentials, saying an investigation last year found that 262 of Pakistan’s 860 active pilots had false licenses or had cheated on exams, including an unspecified number of pilots of the PIA.
PIA will ground nearly 150 of its 426 pilots amid an investigation that they hold “dubious” licenses, a company spokesperson said.
Qasim Qadim, a spokesman for the Pakistan Airline Pilots Association, called the crash findings “mind-blowing,” Agence France-Presse reported.
“How could it happen? It just baffles me, ”she said. “The best drivers with the best records have made mistakes. Humans make mistakes. “
The report did not name the pilots, but a senior airline official told AFP that the captain was Sajjad Gul, who joined PIA 25 years ago and had accumulated 17,000 hours of flight experience, including 4,500 hours in A320.
The secretary of the Pakistan Airline Pilots Association told Reuters that pilots were not expected to be distracted during crucial procedures such as landing, but that other factors should also be investigated for the full report.
“It was noted that the pilots were busy talking about corona, and that they may have overlooked some things,” he said, but other factors were involved, including “they were not provided with adequate air traffic control support.”
A full report is expected to be released by the end of the year.