KARACHI: Assuring the parliament of a transparent investigation into the May 22 plane crash and submission of a preliminary report on June 22, Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan said on Wednesday that the government was ready to include two representatives of the global pilots’ body in the ongoing probe to make it more credible.
The International Federation of Air Line Pilots’ Association (Ifalpa) had approached the Pakistani authorities soon after the crash asking them to include a pilot investigator in their probe into the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) A320 crash that killed 97 of 99 passengers and crew members onboard in Karachi’s Model Colony area.
Speaking on the floor of the National Assembly and later at the Senate, the aviation minister said he had written a letter to Ifalpa requesting the organisation to send its two representatives — a pilot and a technical expert — to be part of the investigation team of the Aircraft Accident and Investigation Board.
He said the probe was being conducted by a team comprising three senior officials of the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) and one of the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).
Minister says preliminary report on tragedy to be submitted to NA on 22nd
The minister said Ifalpa was requested that one of the two officials it would send here should be from the Turkish Airlines because it was operating the biggest fleet of A320 aircraft.
He claimed that Ifalpa was being involved in the probe to make the inquiry more transparent and credible and to address concerns of pilots and heirs of victims.
“It is the responsibility of the government to find out why the people of Pakistan have to bear such tragedies frequently,” he said, referring to previous air crashes.
He said a free and fair inquiry report into the PIA plane crash would be laid before the National Assembly on June 22.
He recalled that in the recent past, the exact reports of inquiries conducted into six air crashes, including Bhoja Airline crash in Islamabad, Air Blue crash in Islamabad, PIA’s ATR plane crash in Havelian and a crash landing in Gilgit, had not been made public.
The inquiry reports of all the crashes would also be presented in the National Assembly, the minister added.
About the victims of the Karachi plane crash, Mr Khan said that 95 of 97 bodies of the victims had been identified and handed over to the families after DNA testing.
He said that the government had provided Rs1million each to families of 82 victims as other families had either disputed compensation or refused to take it as was done by the family of senior bureaucrat Khalid Sher Dil.
About the damage to property in the Model Colony area, he said the damaged houses were being surveyed by the CAA and PIA so that compensation might be paid to their owners. He said 34 people of five affected families had been provided alternative accommodation.
He appreciated the spirit of the people of Karachi who he said selflessly pulled out the survivors and the bodies from the wreckage of the plane.
The minister said the Turkish Airlines had a fleet of 300 airplanes and covered 280 destinations and Emirates with a fleet of 280 planes covered 256 destinations but they were not prone to air crashes. So it was a matter of concern why “our airplanes had crashed one after the other”.
He welcomed the opposition’s move to seek details about checking of airplanes and screening of pilots.
Mr Khan said in the past the PIA had been politicised and 846 pilots and technical staff of the airline had obtained jobs on fake degrees and licences as was revealed after the checking ordered by the Supreme Court.
He said academic credentials and licences of all pilots would be checked.
The minister said due to the coronavirus pandemic, the airline industry in the world suffered the loss of $350 billion. The PIA also suffered losses but it did not lay off a single employee whereas the British Airways and other airlines had laid off thousands of their workers.
Plane’s engine, wing removed from crash site
In Karachi, the heaviest pieces of the PIA’s ill-fated aircraft — a wing and an engine — were removed from the crash site about three weeks after the deadly incident
A PIA spokesperson said the plane’s wreckage was transferred to a safe and secure hangar at Karachi airport for further examination by the investigation team analysing the air crash.
He said the engine and the wing of the aircraft were difficult to remove since the engine was stuck on the third floor of a house and the wing between the floors inside the house.
He said a team of PIA structural engineers had analysed the site and decided to use heavy cranes because the houses in the affected area might collapse while removing the plane parts without using such machinery. But, narrow streets and electric wires made the task extremely difficult. “The concrete roofs were cut in slabs and safely removed piece by piece before the wing and the engine were pulled out. The wing of the plane was 17 metre long and five metre wide.”
The operation was conducted by the flight safety team and structural engineers, who were assisted by engineers of the Army’s mechanised battalion, PAF and Port Qasim Authority (PQA). The cranes were provided by the PQA while heavy lift equipment came from the Army and PAF.
“The support of the Sindh Rangers was also instrumental in cordoning off the area, keeping it clear from onlookers and ensuring that the site is clear of any danger to human life,” the spokesperson said.
The Pakistan Airline Pilots’ Association (Palpa) has claimed that the violation of the Air Navigation Order (ANO) was the main reason behind rise in air accidents in Pakistan.
“Pakistan has been witnessing rise in air accidents since 2010. It all started with Air Blue crash in Islamabad. Then Bhoja Air’s plane crashed and then two PIA planes crashed, while in between some accidents of foreign cargo aircrafts also happened.
“The key reason behind this surge in accidents of Pakistani aircraft is sheer violation of the ANO since 2010,” said Palpa general secretary Capt Imran Narejo in a statement.
He said the CAA had on May 25, 2006 released the ANO whose Section 8 aimed at preventing crew fatigue, stretching to the limits and stopping frequent application for extensions to flight and duty time limitations (FDTL). He said the ANO limited the flight time to 14 hours and duty time to 16 hours for double crew.
But in 2011, the CAA deleted this section despite reservations of Palpa. In 2017, this issue was resolved but again the aviation secretary in the PML-N government stopped implementing this rectified ANO on the complaints of Air Blue and PIA, the Palpa official said.
He said the violation of the FDTL clause had reached its peak in the recent times when the current chief executive of the PIA allowed pilots to voluntarily work even after completing their 12-hour duty.
He demanded restoration of the ANO of 2006 and asked the CAA to enforce strict flight safety measures.
Published in Dawn, June 11th, 2020