ISLAMABAD (AP) – The Pakistani aviation minister said on Wednesday that “human error” on the part of the pilot, co-pilot and air traffic control caused the plane crash in the port city of Karachi last month, killing all 97 people on board.
The announcement sheds new light on the tragedy after Pakistani investigators previously said the crash was the result of an engine failure. It also revealed previously unconfirmed details, including that the plane had made a failed landing attempt in which the engines had apparently scrubbed the runway, causing significant damage.
The plane went down in a residential area near Jinnah International Airport on May 22, just days after Pakistan lifted the restrictions on the coronavirus pandemic and resumed domestic flights pending Eid al-Fitr’s major Islamic holiday. marks end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.
Pakistan was nationally detained since mid-March because of the virus.
When flights resumed in May, every other seat on the plane remained free to promote social distance, including on the doomed Pakistan International Airlines flight.
There were only two survivors of the Airbus A320 crash, carrying 91 passengers and eight crew. A 13-year-old girl from the neighborhood where the plane crashed was seriously injured in the crash and later died in the hospital.
Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan, who presented preliminary findings in Pakistan’s investigation into the crash in Parliament, said the pilot was ignoring air traffic control instructions while attempting to land.
According to the cockpit voice recorder that was later found among the debris on the ground – and then handed over to Airbus experts – the pilots had discussed the corona virus throughout the flight, apparently affecting their families.
Pakistan has been hard hit by the virus-caused COVID-19, with more than 188,000 cases and 1,346 deaths since February, when it reported its first confirmed case.
The crash occurred when the plane attempted to land for the second time. Air traffic control told the pilot three times that the plane was too low to land, but he declined to listen and said he would make it, Khan said.
The minister added that air traffic control did not inform pilots about the damage to the engines after the aircraft’s first failed attempt at landing. “The aircraft’s engines were damaged when they scrubbed the runway, but air traffic control failed to notify the pilot,” he said.
“Pilots and ATC did not follow all protocols,” said Khan to the National Assembly, the House of Representatives.
Khan insisted the plane’s crew was healthy and the Airbus A320 was fully fit to fly and had “no technical error” prior to the crash. A full report on the crash is expected in a year.
He said that both the pilot and the co-pilot were extremely experienced, but “the tragedy happened” because of hubris and lack of focus. Khan would hold a press conference later on Wednesday to explain the report to journalists.
Minutes before the crash, the flight crew declared an emergency and declared both engines to be out of service, Khan read from the report.
“The plane crashed about 1,340 meters in front of the runway,” he said.
Tanveer reported from Multan, Pakistan.
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