Rescue workers plane crash Pakistan
Rescue workers gather at the site of the passenger plane crash in a residential area near the international airport in Karachi, on May 22. Image Credit: Reuters

Dubai: Human error caused the tragic crash of a Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) passenger plane in Karachi last month, says the provisional investigation report.

The report says that the crash was due to the negligence of both the cockpit crew as well as the Air Traffic Control (ATC). There was apparently no technical fault in the aircraft, said the preliminary investigation report that was submitted to the Aviation Division in a high-level meeting on Monday.

PIA Flight PK8303, carrying 99 people, including eight crew members, crashed in a densely-populated residential area near Karachi’s Jinnah International Airport on May 22, while it was making its second attempt to land. Two people survived the crash, while 97 were killed.

PIA plane crash

Report prepared

Meanwhile, in a policy statement made at the National Assembly of Pakistan on Monday, Minister for Aviation, Ghulam Sarwar Khan, said the interim report has been compiled, in keeping with the deadline, within a period of one month after the tragedy took place on May 22. “The report is absolutely ready ... We have received it and also discussed it with Prime Minister Imran Khan,” he said. He added that he would present the report before the National Assembly session on Wednesday.

A day after the incident, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) had constituted an investigation team headed by its Aircraft Accident and Investigation Board (AAIB) president, Air Commodore Usman Ghani, reported the Express Tribune.

On Monday, Ghani made a detailed briefing to Aviation Division officials. According to the report, the cockpit crew and the ATC repeatedly made mistakes. Sources privy to the inquiry report said that the aircraft’s black box has so far not indicated any technical fault in the aircraft.

Final report

However, a senior aviation official told Gulf News from Karachi that the provisional report has many loopholes in it and that the facts would be clearer only after a detailed report is released following decoding of black box data. The black boxes (cockpit data recorder and cockpit voice recorder) of the ill-fated aircraft have already been taken to France by the French Investigation Team. It may take months to compile the final report.

SOPs violated

Initial investigation has revealed that multiple standard operating procedures (SOPs) were violated by both, the cockpit crew of the ill-fated Airbus A320 as well as the ATC. Apparently, warning signals and alarms in the cockpit of the plane were ignored, which eventually led to the disaster.

The aircraft was flying way beyond the standard safe landing speed and altitude, while it was as close as just four nautical miles from the landing strip at Karachi Airport and the ATC failed to check and raise an alarm over the non-deployment of the landing gear, which led to a near-disastrous first attempt to land, experts said.

As a result, both the engines of the plane scraped the surface of the runway thrice, which led to the failure of both the engines and consequently the crash.

Speed and altitude

The provisional report said both the speed and the altitude of the aircraft was more than the recommended parameters when the pilot made the first attempt to land. On its first attempt at landing, the aircraft touched the ground at the middle of the 9,000 metre-long runway.

The ATC had cleared the plane for landing in spite of its above-normal speed and altitude. 

The pilot, in his part, did not inform the ATC about the jamming of the landing gears. Moreover, it was also a wrong decision on the part of the pilot to attempt a second landing.

The plane stayed in air for 17 minutes after the first failed landing attempt -- a crucial time during which both the engines of the aircraft had stopped functioning.

Engine fragments

The report further stated that fragments of the PIA aircraft’s engine were strewn on the runway for 12 hours after the crash, but the air site unit did not collect them and other aircraft were allowed to land on the runway. This was a violation of the SOP and could have caused damages to other aircraft. The report said the aircraft’s first engine was installed on February 25, 2019, while its second engine was installed on May 27, 2019.

All three landing gears of the aircraft were installed on October 18, 2014. The fateful plane was manufactured in 2004 and was inducted in the PIA fleet in October 2014.