Pilots were ‘overconfident’, ‘unfocused’ due to pandemic: Minister Initial report finds error by pilots, ATC officials in PIA crash

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Staff Reporter

Islamabad

Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan presented the preliminary report on the PIA plane crash before the National Assembly on Wednesday, where he accused the pilots of being ‘over confident’.
Based on the initial report, Khan held the pilot, the cabin crew, and the Air Traffic Control responsible for the plane crash, which resulted in the deaths of 97 out of 99 persons on board the flight.
“The pilot and the ATC did not follow the procedure. The plane was 100 per cent okay,” said the minister, eliminating the possibility of technical faults with the aircraft. He added that data from the Digital Flight Data Recorder and Cockpit Voice Recorder was decoded in the presence of foreign experts.
Khan added that the pilots were not “focused” because of the coronavirus pandemic. “In the last half hour, the pilots’ discussion was about coronavirus, they were not focused as their families were affected,” said the minister, adding that the pilot and co-pilot were both fit and experienced. The final report of the incident will be presented in one year, added the minister. Unfortunately, this is not the first instance of a plane crash, in the past 72 years, there have been 12 such incidents, said Khan. These incidents were not investigated and no report was issued, no one knew who was responsible, admitted the minister in parliament.
He also assured the house that the government would not privatise Pakistan International Airlines. Instead, it will be “restructured” and the government would take it back to its glory days.
However, the minister told the lower house, that out of the total 860 pilots in Pakistan, 262 pilots did not sit for the exams. Someone else sat in the exams for them, he claimed. Based on this, Khan said, 40 per cent licences are “fake”, and the pilots don’t have the required flying experience.
According to the aviation minister, people have been inducted based on fake degrees, or appointed on political basis, with merit being ignored. He elaborated that an inquiry has been initiated in this regard, and show-cause notices have been issued to 54 pilots. “Some of the pilots have also challenged these notices in court. Thus far, nine pilots have confessed to holding fake degrees,” he claimed.
PIA flight PK8303, which crashed in a residential area in Karachi on May 22, had taken off from Lahore and came down about a kilometre short of the runway on its second attempt to land.
“The pilot on the final approach did not identify any technical fault [as well]. At a distance of 10 miles from runway, the plane should have been at an altitude of 2,500 feet but it was around 7,220 feet. This was the first irregularity,” Khan said.
He said that the ATC told the pilot thrice that the plane was too high to land but he refused to listen. Another important factor was that the pilot closed the landing gears at a distance of five nautical miles from the runway even though they were open before, he added.
Talking about further mistakes, Khan said that the plane was on auto-landing but the pilot brought it back to manual landing before the crash. It should have come in at 40 degrees but it dived at 60 degrees, he added.
The minister, however, added that the control tower was at fault too for not pointing out the damage to the plane after a failed attempt at landing. “[Air traffic controller] should have informed when he saw the engines on fire. The control tower did not inform pilot [so it] was at fault too. When the plane took off again, both engines were damaged.
“He was an extremely experienced pilot.