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‘CAA never released data’

June 24, 2012


THIS is with reference to the news report ‘CAA never released data’ (June 7). In fact, the crash data is maintained by the Transport Safety Board (TSB). Once a report of the occurrence is received, it is assessed by senior investigators and a decision is taken on when to commence an investigation.

The TSB investigates those occurrences that have a reasonable potential to result in safety action or that generate a high degree of concern over transportation safety.

It is true that Pakistan’s track records where air accidents are concerned are on the higher side. It is incorrect to suggest that Pakistan does not have the capacity to conduct an inquiry into technical faults and we seek the help of a foreign agency which normally gives a clean chit.

The purpose of inviting foreign experts is to reinsure that the inquiry conducted should leave no doubt in anybody’s mind.

If we start inviting foreign experts for crash investigations, it would be tantamount to lacking confidence in our own experts who are fully qualified to do so.

In fact, this should never be done, as by showing lack of confidence in our own experts can be detrimental to our interests that could ultimately end up in a no-confidence motion by the ICAO and CAA, resulting in an embargo on flights.

There is a need to adopt an analytical approach and show patience until the accident investigation team has examined all evidences, including the Flight Data Recorder, Cockpit Voice Recorder, conversation between the control tower and the pilot, and the aircraft wreckage. All investigations ultimately lead to a conclusion to avoid recurrence of such crashes.

An aircraft can crash for a number of reasons, including pilot error, technical sabotage, and bad weather. A pilot who has flown in and out of Islamabad for thousands of hours can encounter crosswinds, tailwinds, wind shear, mountain waves, lightning, hailstorm, poor visibility, severe turbulence and low clouds and miscalculate. Let us not jump to any conclusion and wait for the result.

Accidents or crashes have nothing to do with the appointment of director-generals alleged to be appointed on political considerations. In Pakistan, it is the system, and the CAA is no exception. The CAA being regulator must ensure airworthiness of the aircraft and there should be no compromise on this account. Pakistan’s CAA must strictly adhere to ICAO mandatory requirements and develop in-house expertise in crash investigations and minimum reliance on foreign experts.

Low level wind shear has been responsible for a number of accidents all over the world. According to ICAO statistics, 28 aviation accidents with 700 fatalities were attributed to this phenomenon between 1970 and 1985, and the Bhoja Air crash too may be attributed to it, so let us wait for the investigation result.

The ICAO preferably allows at least one year in completing the investigation. In case of delay, an interim report is to be made public. The pilot error can not be attributed to an incompetent crew, as it is a far-fetched idea.

The first and foremost thing is the paying of compensation to the bereaved families and that should be expedited. Let us not settle personal scores by criticising the CAA.



THIS is apropos of Dr Abdul Razzaq and Abdul Saeed Ghori’s letter (June 21).

While no one can dispute the basic theme of the letter that compensation for air crash victims should be paid as early as possible, there are certain inaccuracies in the letter which need correction.

It begins with a serious charge against the CAA for acting as a ‘silent spectator, if not accomplice, which amounts to collusive procrastination’. The fact is that the CAA has legally nothing to do with the payment of compensation to the victims of air crash or their families. This is a contractual relationship between the airline and its passengers and the quantum of compensation is already provided under the relevant law, namely The Carriage by Air Act, 2012 (‘Act’). The CAA, of course, is responsible to the extent of ensuring that the airline maintains ‘adequate insurance covering their liability’ under the Act.

The letter also says that the Act has ‘fixed an obligatory minimum compensation for domestic passengers at Rs5 million’.

This is incorrect . The Act under paragraph 21 of the Fifth Schedule provides for damages ‘not exceeding Rs5,000,000 for each passenger’. This is the maximum or the limit sum which may be paid to each passenger, except when negligence or misconduct of the airline involved when the compensation has no limit.

In short, the Act no where provides for ‘minimum’ compensation.

The letter goes on to say that ‘liability for international carriage is almost three times than that of a domestic passenger. This is discriminating among human lives’.

The stated ‘discrimination’ is a matter of individual perception away from the reality of life. Even within domestic or international regimes of compensation, there can be discrimination depending upon economic loss due to injury/death of the passenger.

It must be appreciated that the sum of compensation is a limit, not a lump sum payable under any circumstances. The claimant has to prove actual damage. Therefore, a young professional will get more than an elderly unemployed person.

The letter towards the end laments that ‘families continue to suffer for want of a law to enforce their rights’ and suggests the Chief Justice to order ‘conclusion of court cases within six months’.

It is incorrect that there is no law to protect rights of the families in such cases. The Act has been enforced for this very purpose. The readers, specially the affected families, should also know that the Act, in the Sixth Schedule, provides guidelines for expeditious disposal of claims on production of ‘succession certificate’ which sets out the proportion in which each heir is to receive the compensation. This, of necessity, involves a long-drawn procedure, especially when there are too many rival claimants, including children whose guardians have also to be appointed. Prescribing a time limit, though desirable, is impractical.

However, in my view it would have been much better if the Act itself had contained a provision for providing priority in litigation in such cases.

S.M. ANWAR Group Captain (Rtd) Karachi