KARACHI: A day after it demanded a thorough probe into the plane crash tragedy, the Pakistan Airlines Pilots Association (Palpa) on Saturday blamed the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) and Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) for Friday’s crash, saying it had lodged several protests with airline’s management about the ill-fated aircraft, an A-320, and the dangers it posed for flying operations.

“The aircraft’s landing gear has always been a grave cause for concern. Numerous ‘technical logs’ concerning this particular aircraft will validate Palpa’s contentions,” according to a statement issued by the pilots’ body.

It said it believed the “negligence of the PIA management in entirety in ensuring maintenance of its aircraft is a dominant factor” in the occurrence of the plane crash tragedy.

“The CAA has also failed in its duty as the regulator. Airworthiness of an aircraft is a concern that falls exclusively within the regulatory domain of the CAA. The crash has occurred due to the unfitness of the aircraft itself,” the Palpa statement said.

Giving background, it said: “There have been numerous instances when Palpa had on behalf of its members lodged protests with [the] PIA management with regard to this particular aircraft and the dangers it posed in being utilised for flying operations.

“Our repeated expressions of distress had been misrepresented by PIA management to government agencies, policymakers, also the public at large, as unfair negotiation tactics.”

It said the PIA management had employed “draconian” methods in dealing with pilots.

“PIA operations are being administered at the whims and fancies of a man not deemed fit or suitable to helm the organisation. On this day, the Supreme Court is seized of a matter challenging the appointment of Air Marshal Arshad Malik as chief executive officer. He is discharging duties under an injunctive order. Final adjudication of proceedings is awaited.

“The CEO’s unfitness to hold office is demonstrated through his statement to the press. By insinuating that the deceased commanding officer of PK 8303 was “unable to land the aircraft despite two open runways” is a stark reflection of his lack of knowledge of aviation affairs”, it said.

Negating the PIA chief’s statement, Palpa said the landing gear was ordinarily deployed about 2,000 feet before the landing strip/runway.

Published in Dawn, May 24th, 2020