22 August, 2014 / Shawwal 25, 1435

A rescue worker searches for survivors in the Airblue plane crash at Margilla Hills in Islamabad on July 28, 2010. – AFP Photo

PESHAWAR: In a major development in the July 28, 2010 Airblue Blue crash case, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) in its report for the first time has disclosed other factors contributing to the accident apart from pilot’s fault and bad weather.

Incompetence and lack of qualification/experience of the staff at the Air Control Towers and non-availability of Radar Monitoring Terminal and the ATC Tower were cited as other reasons which resulted in the loss of precious lives.

The twenty-five page report, prepared by the President Security Investigation Board Headquarters Civil Aviation Authority Air Commodore Abdul Basit, was presented Thursday before a two-member bench of the Peshawar High Court comprising Chief Justice Dost Muhammad Khan and Justice Syed Afsar Shah by the Legal Advisor of the CAA, Obaidur Rehman Abbasi.

The Airblue Flight 202, which had taken off from Karachi 10 minutes to eight in the morning on July 28, 2010, crashed into Islamabad’s Margalla hills, killing all 152 people on board.

The report also revealed that number of irregularities were observed related to competence, qualification and internationally recommended criteria for deployment of Air Traffic Control.

It remarks that the present arrangement of providing procedural control service by control tower is not only contrary to ICAO standards and recommended practices but is also highly unsafe as military controllers are neither trained nor in practice to handle such situations.

According to the report, a copy of which has been obtained by Dawn.Com, says: “The terrain of Margalla Hills is not marked on the  radar scope in order to avoid scope of congestion and distraction in maintaining identity of the air craft, However a map of minimum sector altitude (MSA) is displayed in Radar Unit. “

It says that another important equipment based inadequacy was observed in the shape of non availability of radar monitoring terminal in the Air Traffic Control Tower.

It further adds that the Duty Controller being from PAF and BBIAP Islamabad was not qualified (as per ICAO SARPS)  to handle civil traffic and he did not possess the requisite qualification/qualifications like completion of ICAO Basic ATC course from ICAO recognised institute, he had not undergone on job training (OJT)  under the supervision of qualified civil controller. However he was qualified to handle military traffic as per record available with the PAF.

The report holding the air controller responsible also reveals that the duty controller at Islamabad tower was not authorised by CAA competent Authority to perform independent duties to control civil traffic, adding, “the duty controller at Islamabad Tower was also not authorized by the CAA Categorization Board.”

The report, by further highlighting the faults on the part of the ground staff, also reveals that the duty controller at Islamabad Tower was the junior most officer (14 months service) in the shift having less experience to handle such a complex situation (severity of bad weather).

The report says that most of the controllers on PAF as well as CAA side were not aware and clear about the modus operandi in case of radar operation.

It further remarks that the present arrangement of providing procedural control service by control tower is not only contrary to ICAO standards and recommended practices but is also highly unsafe as military controllers are neither trained nor in practice to handle such situations.

The CAA report also highlights that the Captain displayed signs of anxiety, tiredness, pre-occupation, confusion, nervousness and geographical disorientation in various phases of flight after commencement of descent while it the report’s findings also says that the aircraft had ended up in a dangerous situation because of most non professional and complacent handling by the captain.

Though the captain and the bad weather had always been considered the main reasons for the crash at Margalla Hills, the report also reveals that the ICAO procedures being a joint user airport (PAG and PCCA) were not being exercised in letter and spirit at Benazir International Airport Islamabad.

The important aspect of the report is that the experienced and competent controller available at the tower, instead of taking over the control of the traffic, had let the junior controller to continue handling aerodrome traffic in severe inclement weather conditions.

The court subsequently adjourned the hearing till April 30 and directed Air Commodore Basit to submit the details of the safety measures of the board in detail to make it  part of the case.

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