New Delhi/Karachi: Investigators have zeroed in on pilot error as one of the primary reasons — if not the only cause — why a Pakistan International Airlines Corp. plane crashed into a Karachi neighborhood last month, killing all but two of the 99 people on board, people with knowledge of the matter said.
It appears the landing gear wasn’t deployed when the Airbus SE A320 jet touched the runway in its first approach, and there was no communication from the cockpit on whether the aircraft was trying to land on its belly, the people said, asking not to be identified because details of the probe are confidential. Both the airline, known as PIA, and the planemaker are pushing for an initial report to be made public as soon as possible, so that mechanical failure can be ruled out, they said.
Such an outcome would largely clear Airbus and engine maker CFM, a joint venture between General Electric Co. and France’s Safran SA, of any significant contribution to the tragedy. While finding pilot error would absolve PIA of maintenance or mechanical mistakes, it would also shove pilot training and procedures into the spotlight as the airline takes to the skies after a two-month lockdown.
France’s air safety investigator, the Bureau d’Enquetes et d’Analyses, successfully downloaded the jet’s flight data and cockpit voice recordings this week, which will help investigators understand what went on inside the plane as it hit the runway midway with the wheels still up, grinding along on its two engines at a speed of more than 200 miles per hour (322 kilometers per hour.)
A spokesman for BEA said Pakistani, Airbus and Safran teams will be leaving tonight after work downloading and decoding the data was completed. Analysis of the data will continue and the Pakistani authorities will communicate the findings when ready. He declined to comment on the reasons for the crash. A Safran spokeswoman declined to comment.
Officials at the air traffic control tower didn’t warn the pilots about the plane’s landing gear, even though those in the tower should have seen it wasn’t deployed, the people said. The plane wasn’t instructed to change its frequency to communicate with the tower directly, one of the people said.
The ATC, however, did warn the pilots multiple times about their speed and altitude as the jet was coming in to land but the warnings were ignored.
Prime Minister Imran Khan’s administration expects to make the initial report public by June 22, a month into the crash. The final report should be ready in 4-5 months, aviation minister Ghulam Murtaza Khan said in a briefing on June 4. – Bloomberg