Pakistan karachi plane crash
Security personnel walk over the wreckage of a plane at the site after a Pakistan International Airlines aircraft crashed in a residential area days before, in Karachi on May 24, 2020. Ninety-seven people were killed and two survived when a passenger plane crashed into homes in Pakistan's southern city of Karachi on May 22. Image Credit: Agencies

Islamabad: An 11-member team of experts and engineers from European aircraft manufacturer Airbus is arriving to provide technical support to the four-member committee constituted by the Pakistani government to probe the May 22 crash of PIA Flight PK-8303.

The plane with 99 passengers on board was on its way from Lahore to Karachi but could not make it and crashed only minutes before landing. Of its 99 passengers only two survived.

The team that according to Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) was to arrive sometime on Monday, will also interview the survivors and eyewitnesses to assist the investigation committee to reach a conclusion whether it was a technical fault, an accident or pilot error that caused the worst air tragedy in the country’s recent history.

Two survivors

The two survivors — a banker and a local resident — had miraculously escaped death as they along with their seats were thrown out of the plane when it exploded in the air and fell on a residential colony close to the airport.

Rescue work, operation cleanup halted

Before the arrival of the team, the rescue work and cleanup activity of removing various parts of the doomed plane’s engine and other objects were halted.

The team will conduct a thorough inspection of the site as well as the engine and black box.

Earlier, the company on its official twitter account had announced it would provide assistance to the investigators: “We regret to confirm that an A320 operated by Pakistan International Airline was involved in accident during flight PK-8303 from Lahore to Karachi on May 22, 2020. Out thoughts are with all those affected. Airbus is providing assistance to investigation.”

47,100 hours of flight

According to the company’s record, the aircraft was handed over to the PIA in 2014 and had completed 47,100 flight hours and 25,860 flight cycles until its crash, it added.

Questions over pilot’s handling of aircraft

Meanwhile, a preliminary report prepared by the CAA raises serious questions over the pilot’s handling of the aircraft.

Whether it was his error of judgment, a bird-hit accident or technical fault in the airplane needs to be thoroughly probed, says the report.

The plane’s engines had hit the runway a number of times when the pilot was landing it but after the third hit, he had to lift it up owing to its high speed and unstable condition.

24-year flying experience

The pilot of the plane, Captain Sajjad Gul, had a distinguished 24-year career in the airline industry: 17,000 hours of flying planes and 4,700 hours of flying A320 Airbus.

A CAA local team also visited the runway and observed three marks where the plane had hit the ground.

According to a senior official of the CAA, it has been pointed out in the preliminary report that the plane’s engines first made contact with the ground at the 4,500 feet marker, followed a second time at the 5,500 feet marker and a third time at the 7,000 feet marker. However, though the engines touched the ground, the aircraft’s belly at no point made any contact with the runway, he said.

It was after the third contact with the runway that the pilot took off and perhaps thinking it better to take a round in the air and make another attempt. The air control room meanwhile kept reminding him to take the aircraft to 3,000 feet, but he managed only 1,800. This failure to achieve the directed height indicates that the engines were not responding, it was pointed out in the report.