Sighs of relief went up around the country when no fatalities or major injuries were reported after a Shaheen Airways aircraft carrying almost 200 passengers crash-landed in Lahore on Tuesday.
One shudders to think how the situation could have turned out if matters had slipped out of the pilot’s control. The incident is a reminder that in spite of Pakistan’s relatively decent track record in air traffic safety, a single mishap can lead to a major tragedy.
A near-miss is cause for relief, but it also raises some questions which the airline and aviation authorities must answer.
Also read: 10 injured as Shaheen Air flight crash lands
For instance, how was the aircraft deemed airworthy in the first place if its landing gear was defective? An aircraft undergoes multiple checks before taking off, and responsibility must be pinned appropriately and the officers responsible for the oversight punished.
The incident also highlights the relatively lax attitude of private carriers towards air safety and maintaining the airworthiness of their aircraft.
In this instance, the plane was not on a wet lease but owned by the airline itself, which increases the latter’s obligation to explain how it was pressed into service with a potentially catastrophic defect.
In the past few years, two major crashes involving planes owned by private airliners have highlighted the lax attitudes towards passenger safety.
A plane belonging to Bhoja Air crashed en route to Islamabad in 2012, while pilot error was cited as the cause behind the 2010 Airblue crash. Keeping a close eye on their profits, private carriers are more likely to cut corners and press defective aircraft into service or pressure pilots into flying without allowing them adequate periods of rest in between flights or without giving them refresher courses and evaluating them for flight discipline on a regular basis.
The incident should not be brushed under the carpet. It is not enough for Shaheen Airways to offer an inquiry. A public inquiry should also be held by the CAA to determine if the airline was lax in its maintenance procedures or pre-flight inspection, and whether or not the pilot performed properly under the circumstances.
There should be zero tolerance for such mishaps. The stakes are far too high.
Published in Dawn, November 5th, 2015