THE final findings of the Aircraft Accident and Investigation Board regarding the deadly 2016 PIA plane crash has once again brought the national flag carrier as well as the aviation industry regulator, the Civil Aviation Authority, under the spotlight. Though the probe primarily blames PIA engineers for the three technical faults — a fractured power turbine blade, a broken pin inside the overspeed governor device, and contamination inside the propeller valve module — cited as the causes of the tragedy, the CAA cannot be excused for its lack of proper oversight. The inquiry confirms the findings of the preliminary report into the crash, which had also found lapses on the part of the airline and lack of oversight by the CAA to be responsible for the accident. The ill-fated PIA ATR-42 flight, that was on its way to Islamabad, had crashed into the hills near Havelian, killing all 47 passengers — including singer-turned-evangelist Junaid Jamshed — and crew on board, 42 minutes after taking off from Chitral.
That it took the investigation board, which works under the CAA, four long years to finalise the report speaks volumes for the outrageous manner in which both the airline and the flight industry regulator have in the past tried to blunt the impact of such inquiries to protect their own. Little concern is ever shown for the families of those who have lost their near and dear ones in these avoidable tragedies. We do not know if any action was taken against those found responsible. One would not be surprised if they were not taken to task for their carelessness that cost so many lives. PIA has been struggling with massive financial and technical troubles for the last two decades. The inquiry report will surely raise questions about the quality of its human resource as well. Similarly, the oversight role of the CAA will come under greater public scrutiny. It is time that a decision is taken on PIA’s affairs and the CAA is overhauled to prevent future tragedies.
Published in Dawn, November 21st, 2020