On May 22 a Pakistan International Airlines Airbus A320 crashed on approach to Karachi, killing 97 people. While there were some theories as to what happened, it typically takes a while for investigations to be completed, to determine with any certainty what really happened.
An investigation into the crash of PIA 8303 has been conducted for the past several weeks, and today Pakistan’s Federal Minister for Aviation, Ghulam Sarwar Khan, has revealed the interim findings of the investigation in a presentation to Parliament. Unfortunately this is getting quite political, and the findings are being disputed.
Pilots & ATC blamed for PIA crash
The PIA A320 crash is being blamed entirely on human error, with no technical aircraft faults having been found. According to the report, both pilots and air traffic controllers didn’t follow proper protocols, though a majority of the blame is being placed on pilots. According to the report:
- The pilots exhibited “overconfidence and lack of concentration”
- The pilots “ignored instructions of the air traffic controllers”
- The air traffic controllers “did not inform the pilots about the engine colliding”
- The pilots weren’t focused, as the black box reveals that “the pilots were discussing corona throughout the flight, they were not focused, they talked about corona and how their families were affected”
- The pilots approached the airport three times as high as they should have, and ignored flight deck alarms
- The pilots lowered the landing gear 10 miles before landing, then inexplicably raised it again about five miles before landing; the air traffic controllers told the pilots to abort their landing, but the pilots insisted on continuing
- The engines dragged along the runway for several thousand feet, and then the plane lost engine power while climbing again
- The last words from the pilots were “oh God, oh God, oh God”
These findings are more or less in line with what was initially believed based on flight data and ATC audio, so for many this won’t come as a surprise.
40% of PIA pilots have fake licenses
During the same presentation it was revealed that 40% of pilots at PIA were flying aircraft with fake licenses. These pilots weren’t given the exams themselves and didn’t have the proper flying experience.
As Pakistan’s Minister for Aviation explained, “pilots are also appointed on a political basis, unfortunately. Whilst appointing pilots, merit is ignored.”
The problem is that claims like this have literally been made for years. And if you’re the Minister for Aviation, shouldn’t it kind of be your job to make sure that doesn’t happen? According to the Minister for Aviation, now the government plans to “restructure” PIA and return it to it’s “days of glory.” Yeah, I’m sure it’ll happen this time around…
There’s controversy surrounding the findings
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Chairman of Pakistan’s Peoples Party, argues that pilots are being turned into scapegoats here, and that the Minister for Aviation should accept blame for the crash:
“Imran Khan used to say if there’s train crash the railway minister should be sacked; if there’s a plane crash the aviation minister should be sacked.
Now he blames the pilot and air traffic control for the PIA crash. Victim blaming and scapegoatism must end. We demand an independent inquiry. The minister must go.”
Meanwhile the Pakistan Air Lines Pilots Association (PALPA) is also disputing these findings, arguing that none of the four members of the Pakistani Air Accident Investigation Board were rated to fly the Airbus A320. A spokesperson said:
“We have no clue about it, we have not even seen the report. We have not at all been included in this, not even as a silent observer. None of [the investigators] are rated on this plane or know this plane.”
On the one hand, you’d think a pilot rated on the type of plane that crashed would be involved in the investigation. Furthermore, it’s ridiculous that apparently so many PIA pilots don’t have proper licenses.
On the other hand, it might be a bit of a stretch to suggest that a Minister for Aviation should be blamed if a plane crashes, while pilots are being turned into “scapegoats,” even if it’s pilot error.
It’s so tragic that nearly 100 people lost their lives in a PIA plane crash last month, which is the deadliest crash in the country in almost a decade. A preliminary report puts the blame squarely on human error, with the pilots being most at fault.
However, this is being disputed, with both the opposition party and pilots union suggesting the investigation wasn’t fair.
(Featured image courtesy of Anna Zvereva)