Islamabad, June 24 (efe-epa).- Pakistan’s plane crash that killed 98 people last month was caused by human error by the pilots and the air traffic control, according to a preliminary probe released on Wednesday.
Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan while sharing the details of the initial investigations into the disaster in parliament made a sensational claim that 40 percent of all commercial pilots in the country carried fake licenses.
“The pilot, as well as the controllers, didn’t follow the standard rules,” Khan told lawmakers in the National Assembly, the lower house of the parliament.
The minister suggested that the pilots may have been distracted by the coronavirus crisis. “The pilots were discussing corona throughout the flight. They were not focused on.”
Khan was presenting the conclusions of the preliminary probe into the accident involving the Pakistan International Airlines A-320 passenger plane that crashed in a residential area close to the airport in the southern city of Karachi on May 22.
The crash killed 98 people, including a girl who was on the ground, while just two passengers survived.
“According to the report, the plane was 100 percent fit for flying. The pilot on the final approach did not identify any technical fault,” Khan insisted.
The minister said the plane had been flying at a lower altitude than it should have at the distances that remained from the runway, something that it was warned about three times by the ATC tower.
Moreover, the landing gear remained closed even when it should have been open.
Khan also blamed ATC officials for not informing the pilots that their first landing attempt had damaged the aircraft and subsequently set fire to the engines.
The minister also revealed that the accreditation of a large number of the pilots had come under the scanner as the result of a probe into flying licenses opened by the Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority in February 2019 after discovering four cases of fake credentials within the PIA.
“It’s very unfortunate and shameful that license of almost 40 percent of our pilots is fake,” he said.
Khan said that as many as 262 out of the total 860 active commercial pilots in the country “did not take the exams themselves, rather someone else appeared in exams,” while others had directly forged their licenses and many had secured their jobs as political favors.
The minister said the government had launched legal proceedings in court against some of these pilots.
The PIA flight was carrying people returning home to celebrate the Muslim festival Eid-al-Fitr – which comes at the end of the holy month of Ramadan – and occurred just as domestic flights resumed after weeks of suspension due to the nationwide coronavirus lockdown.
Pakistan is no stranger to plane crashes and suffered one of its worst air tragedies in 2010 when 152 people died in an air accident near Islamabad. Two years later, another plane crash near the capital killed 138 people. EFE-EPA