Pilot-to-tower recording disclosed

Published: July 28, 2010

Rescuers search for bodies among the wreckage of a crashed plane on the outskirts of Islamabad. PHOTO: AFP

Sources in the Civil Aviation Authorities have revealed the last conversation between the pilot and the control tower.

Sources have said that the control tower issued an initial warning when the plane was getting out of the limits of the runway. The plane was travelling at nine point five nautical miles while it had to turn at five nautical miles.

Meanwhile the following conversation has bee disclosed as yet:

Control tower’s first warning: You are getting away from the runway.

Pilot’s response: We can see the runway.

Control tower’s second warning: Turn to your left immediately, you are heading towards Margalla Hills.

Pilot’s response: We can see that.

This was the last reply form the pilot and then the flight lost its contact with the control tower and soon after it crashed.

CAA submits initial report

Meanwhile, Civil Aviation Authorities compiled their initial investigation report into the tragic plane crash.

According to the report sent to the Defence Ministry, poor visibility and the plane flying below the given altitude were the cause of the incident.

The report also revealed that a Chinese airplane was asked to land at the Islamabad airport at the same time but the pilot did not take the risk and instead changed his course.

But, the pilot of the Airblue flight took a wrong turn and instead of going right, it moved towards the left side and ended up colliding with the Margalla Hills.

Sources said that an FIR will also be lodged on the basis of the initial inquiry report.

Reader Comments (53)

  • jawad
    Jul 28, 2010 - 7:13PM

    Your report says that the pilot was asked to turn right… and he took left.. while the conversation between tower and pilot says another story…Recommend

  • sid
    Jul 28, 2010 - 7:32PM

    I agree, reading the conversation it seems the pilot is well aware of the situation, seeing the runway is a good sign. Although the story mentions that pilot should have turned right rather then left. The tower orders the pilot to turn left immediately. This is such a sad story. Sitting here thousands of miles away, I cant help but be very depressed. May Allah give patience to the families and give eternal peace to the people who lost their lives. Recommend

  • Shazia Sabeen
    Jul 28, 2010 - 8:11PM

    Amen Sumaamen.Recommend

  • Scheik
    Jul 28, 2010 - 8:28PM

    Control tower’s second warning: Turn to your left immediately, you are heading towards Margalla Hills.

    But, the pilot of the Airblue flight took a wrong turn and instead of going right, it moved towards the left side ..

    erm..? Clear things up a bit?Recommend

  • Syed A. Mateen
    Jul 28, 2010 - 8:52PM

    The last conversation of the Pilot with the Control Tower is indicating that despite repeated warnings Pilot did not went on the root as directed by the Control Tower.

    This indicate that Pilot of illfated Air Blue ED-602 was over confidence.

    May Al-Mighty Allah rest the souls of deceased passengers in peace and give strength to the breaved familiies to bear the irreparable loss of precious human lives. Ameen.Recommend

  • Jul 28, 2010 - 9:21PM

    After Multan Focker crash this is yet another sad episode in the history of Pakistan. A footboller and newly wed couple also died. the conversation between the pilot and tower reveals the confused state from the tower side and overconfidence from the pilot’s side which was the main reason of this tragic incident perhaps. the government must not forget this incident in one week or so instead some concrete measures should be taken to avoid such incident on the future. Recommend

  • Jul 28, 2010 - 9:40PM

    May Allah grant patience to the families of the bereaved. There is of course no doubt that now the whole media and the government will step in and start playing dumb charades. The report has already given identification of that. Just look at the last line. “An FIR will be registered on the basis of the report.”

    FIR against whom? Pilot error or no pilot error, the pilot is dead and so are 151 other people. And lets not forget that no crash investigation in Pakistan has ever been made public. My advice to the government is to make public its investigation and let the families of the deceased decide what they want to do about it.

    Also while you’re at it, give this a read:

  • Meekal Ahmed
    Jul 28, 2010 - 10:05PM

    Over-confidence and complacency. That’s what you are when you have 30,000 hours under your belt.

    Those are not the correct ATC words. Sounds very unprofessional to me and thus probably a paraphrase. ATC and radar in Islamabad are very good. They vector you to the runway in a very professional manner. Recommend

  • Ahsan Zafeer
    Jul 28, 2010 - 10:25PM

    I don’t believe this is the correct usage of ATC language. This report is just based on emotions and nothing else. There could be a technical or pilot error but leave that for the professionals to determine. I am utterly ashamed of the media towards covering this story. Pakistani media has no ethics whatsoever. Dawn news was having a blast to hear that a plane had crashed. Ary was boasting it was the first one to break the news. Geo started playing the blame game on authorities. Has anyone considered the terrain they had to conquer, had anyone thought of the weather. For the sake of humanity and the dimming hope of a civilized society, please refrain from making such judgement and from publishing stories that make no logical sense nor has credibility. Pakistani media is just like to jaahil women fighting over nonsense. Have some shame. If one innocent dies in Pakistan, consider it a loss for the nation. Recommend

  • Aamir Javaid
    Jul 28, 2010 - 11:38PM

    Our Civil Aviation and governmental body is stirred up after the crash of this ill-fated plane and everyone seems to be very much committed in order to sort out the things instantly. But I strongly fear that with the passage of time the investigation process will be slow down and the investigation results will not be made public as usual.

    We had so many blast in recent past and immediately after each blast an inquiry committee is established following a phenomenon “out of sight out of mind”. I personally don’t hope nothing from our establishment. Everyone is cheating.

    The Govt. body initially announced that they will arrange travel and accommodation to those who lost their loved ones, but I came to know that these were merely words with no as such practical implementation. The relatives of the dead are facing another problem while paying hefty amount for return tickets and their accommodation. We don’t want to see the condolence by Govt. but we want to see some solid practical steps. Recommend

  • Jul 29, 2010 - 12:57AM

    i have heard the conversation of all the related persons and authorities but no one is ready to give the proper answer.every one is giving hab hazzard answers not coordination between the govt officials.poor people are puzzle to know the fact but no onne is ready to satisfy them inspite of just political comments.Recommend

  • anonymous
    Jul 29, 2010 - 2:06AM

    “Control tower’s second warning: Turn to your left immediately, you are heading towards Margalla Hills.”

    “the pilot of the Airblue flight took a wrong turn and instead of going right, it moved towards the left side”

    CONTRADICTION??? :SRecommend

  • Ali
    Jul 29, 2010 - 3:05AM

    We Pakistanis are daredevils by nature, its clear from the conversation between ATC and the pilot. When flights from Islamabad to Gilgit are cancelled due to bad weather, people curse the PIA. They don’t realize it’s for their own safety.

    Safety regulations should be strictly followed by all airliners and training on flight safety should be given to all pilots regularly.

    I can understand why the Chinese pilot didn’t take the risk, as i have worked in chinese environment(telco sector). They are extremely concerned about safety regulations and follow them like anything. There used to be a training on safety procedures on quarterly basis and different cases were discussed.

    May ALLAH grant janat to all the victims. Ameen. Recommend

  • Ashfaq
    Jul 29, 2010 - 3:06AM

    One of the dreadful plan crash incidents of Pakistan’s history, may ALLAH rest all of them in peace(Aameen)
    Why it happened? What were the reasons behind it? There are so many rumors and diverged news from around but no one can provide satisfactory answers. Pilot was one of the best and experienced of the field and the sights of runway as well as margalla hills were clear to him(according to news) then how it happened? There should be fair investigation to find the truth.Recommend

  • Jul 29, 2010 - 3:27AM

    I am in complete resonance with what Ahsan Zafeer just commented.Recommend

  • umair mumtaz
    Jul 29, 2010 - 6:15AM

    hi — first of all i pray for all of the deceased tht they have a good life here after :( if the control tower said tht the plane should have taken a right turn but it turned left :/ becasue it was going into the right direction most off the planes taxi around too the left not right which leads too f 6 – f5 etc but they taxi around f-8 g 8 g 9 etc they go around these places :P i think they are trying to hide something :( but a pretty sad incident though god knows wht happened :(Recommend

  • Abbas Syed (Private Pilot)
    Jul 29, 2010 - 7:01AM

    The kind of communication reported here is next to impossible as no ATCO nor the Pilot uses this kind of language while communicating over the “Radios”.
    Myself being a Pilot is too sure about it.

    It may please be noted that all Pilots go through a “RADIO TELEPHONY OPERATORS COURSE” or the “RTO” prior to commencing the first solo flight of their careers.

    I am surprised that prior to the discovery of the “CVR” (Cockpit Voice Recorder) and the “FDR” (Flight Data Recorder)and way before the “CIB” (Crash Investigation Board) revealed the findings people have jumped to a conclusion that it was a “PILOT ERROR”.

    It is even worst to see people commenting as technical experts on this tragic incident without even knowing a thing about the “General Aviation” or “Flying” or the “Aircrafts”.

    I would like to make an appeal to all such people “Please lets not use this disaster as a platform to get yourself in the limelight”
    and a very humble request to our media “Please refrain from adding to the miseries of the family members of the deceased by raising inappropriate questions and also by alleging the airline or the crew or those involved in rescue operations, Please play a positive role”.

    Last but not the least, let us all stand as one to get through the worst moments and pray to almighty ALLAH (SWT) to bless the departed souls in the heavens, Amen!


  • Nilofar
    Jul 29, 2010 - 9:48AM

    This Pilot is over 65 yrs old, with severe heart problems, sevre duabetse and hpertension

    He should not have been flying
    even office workers retire at age 60
    He was playing fighter pilot at age 65 in the fog, with known poor vision.
    He will need to answer for 150 deathsRecommend

  • Hafiz Attiqur Rehman
    Jul 29, 2010 - 9:57AM

    The crash has happened and done with the untimely demises of many young, old and others.
    But the question I want to raise here to the authorities, who have so called disaster management cell and other relief committees, Why don’t they have water sprinkles, men drop out techniques and other equipments???
    Are they prepared with the passionate young employees ONLY who can rescued others by risking their lives ….we are expecting from authorities to act professionally and sensibly at this kind of time rather just being interviewed on television and newspaper.
    Just think about those who may got the chance to survive but the late rescued operation let them burnt in the heavy fire exploded, who might be screaming for their lives at the last moment praying to Allah, as if it is the end, O Lord please take our lives quickly as we are burning with our cut body parts.

    But I think Margalla hills are high enough that they can’t even heard or feel their last words. They always think to plan such things AFTER certain incidents because I believe they just have ONLY this way for preparing themselves.Recommend

  • Dr Aslam
    Jul 29, 2010 - 10:14AM

    I am very healthy 55 year old on no medication.
    Yet I have difficulty with my driving on the motorway, my reflexes are not what the were when I was 18 year old.

    This elderly man over 65 who had been retired by PIA , has know heart disease, diabetese, hpertension and just spent 3 months in Agha Khan on a death bed is flying in fog and rain.
    This is SUICIDE.Recommend

  • Ibraheem
    Jul 29, 2010 - 10:37AM

    After reading this report, i think that this is the mistake of Pilot or may be Lack of communication b/w pilot and control tower. But whatever Allah bless them and enter them into Heaven.

  • WI
    Jul 29, 2010 - 10:53AM

    The report mentions

    “the pilot of the Airblue flight took a wrong turn and instead of going right, it moved towards the left side and ended up colliding with the Margalla Hills.”

    “Control tower’s second warning: Turn to your left immediately, you are heading towards Margalla Hills.”

    There is a difference between pilot’s left and right and “general” left and right when looking at plane from outside, maybe thats why you feel there is a conflict in report, maybe they should have mentioned compass directions but i believe there is no big discrepencyRecommend

  • Jul 29, 2010 - 11:19AM

    A moment of grief, a moment of silence and pray that’s what we are supposed to do right now… blaming the pilot, blaming the tower won’t do any good… let’s just pray that may Allah give patience to the families of the dead and courage to move on in life Ameen Sume AmeenRecommend

    Jul 29, 2010 - 11:30AM


  • Tayyab
    Jul 29, 2010 - 11:43AM

    Abbas Syed’s point is worth reading….Recommend

  • Shah khalid
    Jul 29, 2010 - 12:29PM

    May Allah rest their souls in peace. Ameen. :(Recommend

  • Syed kashif Jafri
    Jul 29, 2010 - 1:27PM

    Hi Salams

    First of all heart condolences for all the families of Deceased. The standard of Airblue planes is the biggest question mark on pakistan aviation services. I once travelled on airblue from dubai to lahore and i was terrified that aircraft was old with alot of misfit voices coming from all part of plane. It leave altitude suddenly. In that flight i decided not to travel in airblue any more. i cancelled my return flight and used emirates instead. I think for domestic travel PIA is far better as their jets are much bigger and newer.
    Second thing is employing a pilot whose ago is more than 60 is a crime. Airblue is responsible for this incident and they should be penalised for that.Recommend

  • kami
    Jul 29, 2010 - 2:10PM

    The said pilot was retired from PIA and Air Blue shouldn,t had taken him as a pilot because of his age. Pilot needs quick reflexes and quick responce and very quick decision making capability aswell.
    He was taking more then 150 lives with him and he didn,t follow the instructions from the control tower. over confident might be one of the causes.
    may God rest their souls in heaven

  • Jul 29, 2010 - 2:18PM


    it was fighter plane. It was passenger plane infact. And please do read the comments above your commentsRecommend

  • maria
    Jul 29, 2010 - 4:38PM

    Could the reporter please clarify the confusing facts regarding left and right in this article, as many readers have asked for? If not answering, the comments function is quite useless… Thanks.Recommend

  • Jul 29, 2010 - 4:57PM

    come on people I mean does it really matter now.. left , right, up , down… bad news is plane is crashed and people are dead… just pray for them and for their families.Recommend

  • Jul 29, 2010 - 7:19PM

    May Allah grant patience to the families of the bereaved. There is of course no doubt that now the whole media and the government will step in and start playing dumb charades. The report has already given identification of that. Just look at the last line. “An FIR will be registered on the basis of the report.”
    FIR against whom? Pilot error or no pilot error, the pilot is dead and so are 151 other people. And lets not forget that no crash investigation in Pakistan has ever been made public. My advice to the government is to make public its investigation and let the families of the deceased decide what they want to do about it.
    Also while you’re at it, give this a read:


  • Jul 29, 2010 - 7:21PM

    The link in the previous post is non-responsive. This is the correct link:


  • ASQ
    Jul 29, 2010 - 8:12PM

    For all the pilot was declared fit by civil aviation so stop blaming the pilot.Recommend

  • Jul 29, 2010 - 9:44PM

    In my case, I would Like to hear that thing myself, Govt. or CAA aren’t to be trusted. When Media has access to 90% of the stuff. The recording SHOULD be handed over for others to know Who’s fault was it anyways (the pilot or someone at the CT). We can’t blame the dead as it is.Recommend

  • Asif Nizamani
    Jul 29, 2010 - 11:11PM

    People should stop blaming the health of pilot for the crash, he was flying because he was medically fit to do so. And experienced pilots don’t take unnecessary risks. Pilots first and utmost duty is the safety of the passengers and the plane.

    The recording are completely bogus, because pilots and ATC’s don’t talk in that manner. They seem to be talking in a very casual way, which they don’t when talking over radio.

    Your report says that ;the pilot of the Airblue flight took a wrong turn and instead of going right, it moved towards the left side and ended up colliding with the Margalla Hills’. The thing to note here is that the Margalla Hills are to the RIGHT of the runway, so if according to the report the pilot turned towards LEFT the plane would have steered clear of the hills and no crash would have taken place. Your report itself is erroneousRecommend

  • Jul 29, 2010 - 11:15PM

    The conversation between the ATC and Ed-202 quoted by the media can be verified as fake by any reputable pilot.
    The ATC has a specific protocol for each aircraft which happens to be present in EVERY conversation..Recommend

  • sadaf amirzada
    Jul 30, 2010 - 12:54AM

    Well ,the plane crashed ,whether it turned left or right…we all know it was a mistake the pilots or the control towers…We will never know ,the damage is done and lets just pray for the victims and may Allah grant their loved ones courage to go through this horrific time!Recommend

  • Hassaan
    Jul 30, 2010 - 1:56AM

    Well after listening to all the gossips it can be concluded that the PILOT was totally lost.He misjudged the RUNWAY all together.When the plane crashed its LANDING GEAR was ON which indicates that the pilot was in the mood of LANDING.Also he said to the tower that he can SEE the RUNWAY.Due to low visibility he may have thought that MARGALLA hills is the RUNWAY

    <<<<<<<<<<< PILOT ERROR >>>>>>>>>>>>>Recommend

  • anonymous
    Jul 30, 2010 - 2:28AM

    I also had a cousin and two friends in that flight but i know that the pilot was not to blame. Although he was 60+, he was medically fit to fly a plane which is a certificate issued by the civil aviation and not the company itself. The cause of the accident was the communication between the pilot and the control tower. I doubt the conversation mentioned above is true. This type of language is not used by the air traffic control. He was a very experienced pilot and he wouldnt take a risk with 150 lives at stake. People should not say anything until the whole scenario is clear. It is easy for the control tower to command and difficult to execute them.

    For now, we can pray for them and hope their families are able to bear the loss. Recommend

  • Jamshed
    Jul 30, 2010 - 5:15AM

    The communication looks genuine see this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zd0v9wY_Xz0Recommend

  • Eleni
    Jul 30, 2010 - 12:21PM

    lets quit blaming anybody
    it was fate that led to it,
    and the pilot too lost his life, not that he saved himself and let the others die…wake up people

    just pray for all those who have lost their lifes and all those who are left behind bearing their loss….Recommend

  • OLe Jørgen
    Jul 30, 2010 - 12:44PM

    I am deeply stressed by the fact that accident i due to a simple pilot error. I am so sorry for the families that have to live with this ever after.Recommend

  • zk
    Jul 30, 2010 - 1:56PM

    how can we being muslims call the pilot act overconfident when we know that we all have death time fixed?the runway looks absurd to us but for that pilot it was his catchy death.may Allah give patience to the family of deceased ones and forgive the dead.amenRecommend

  • Shahbanoo Amer
    Jul 30, 2010 - 2:26PM

    Another factor might be the fact that the runway on which the plane was to land does not have ILS installed which made the pilot to go manual. If it had ILS, the pilot would have just given the control to the flight computer and it would have landed the plane safely. It is such a sad thing. But Pakistan should install ILS systems on all its runways. Not only that but all Pakistani planes also must have Mode-S/ADS-B systems to help them locate other planes and themselves in relation to the ground via GPS at all times. This accident would not have happened if pilot had situational awareness during poor visibility. Technology allows to have complete control and fly safely even in zero visibility and harsh weather provided we install those technologies and use them. While one of the runways of Islamabad has ILS, the other one does not, and it cost alot of lives. Pakistani government must pass a law requiring the best technologies be used in civil aviation both on planes and in airports. Recommend

  • Usman
    Jul 30, 2010 - 3:28PM

    First of all, having all the knowledge that I have gained over years and years about aviation and in particular commercial aviation, I can tell you for sure that no ATC tells a pilot simply to turn left or right. For Gods sake, aviation has a proper system and framework. When it comes to direction, ATCs ALWAYS work on a 360 degree directional heading system telling pilots to turn right or left so-and-so degrees, which is a number that the pilot then inputs into the plane’s front panel. Come on, they cannot afford to get their rights or lefts confused!! I firmly believe this conversation given above is totally bogus and written by someone who knows nothing about aviation.Recommend

  • WI
    Jul 30, 2010 - 4:13PM

    All people have to die one day
    When the time is there, then sometimes God makes the judgement of even the best and most skilled people cloudy and its a split second confusion or delay that leads to your death.

    That pilot’s character is above board because he had so many flying hours under his belt, it was not his fault but fate….because the entire circumstances seem so confusing.

    it all happened on the day of 15th of shaban , when the previous night decision of the future of the 150 people was written by Allah
    Its ok , for purposes of report , we can say that it was pilot error maybe, but there are a lot of complex factors involced in such a situation and its a series of unfortunate events that lead to the result.It would be said to blame his character.It was written.and he was a fit and experienced pilotRecommend

  • Meekal Ahmed
    Jul 30, 2010 - 5:44PM


    Some real pilot’s and controllers on an aviation forum are horrified at the unprofessional words of the controller which is why I think this is just a paraphrase. This is not standard ATC terminology. You use the aircraft call-sign and give him a heading to turn to. You don’t just say turn left immediately.

    ATC is one of those links in the chain that breaks somewhere and causes an accident. The aircraft must have been on his radar. He should have warned the pilot much in advance. Why did he wait until he was so close to disaster?

    In the PIA Airbus A300B4 crash in Khatmandu, ATC knew that the pilot was one step ahead of the step-down approach and therefore lower than he should be. ATC said nothing when he should have asked the pilot to immediately execute a go-around and make a new approach. He kept silent and the aircraft hit a ridge killing everyone.

    ATC can make fatal mistakes too. Recommend

  • Yusra Saleem
    Jul 31, 2010 - 1:58PM

    This is such a tragic loss.
    But it wasn’t Pilot’s fault.
    Maybe it was their fate that led to this, maybe Hazrat Essa was already there to take away his soul, and that’s why he could see the Runway instead of Hills. I think. But I’m feeling really sorry for those who had lost their loved ones.Recommend

  • faheem
    Aug 1, 2010 - 12:42AM

    how can they put up this report which in first place makes no sense…no way near reality!!!!!!!!!!Recommend

  • lakotahope
    Aug 1, 2010 - 8:32AM

    Well, the tower knew the plane was making bad decisions. Whether the tower telling the pilot to turn left and the controversy there in the article is a telling detail, I don’t know. Just because a pilot can see the runway while in a landing mode in poor weather conditions, doesn’t ensure a safe landing. Plenty of things can appear that aren’t visible if the pilot doesn’t comply with the readings from his charts and instruments.Recommend

  • asad kibrya
    Aug 3, 2010 - 4:15PM

    What i think is that it is not what it looks like and what the government officials are portraying it like. The actual reality is something else and in my opinion it was a hijack and the plane was containing some higher rank officials which our government is not disclosing as usual who may be assigned to attend some meeting or fullfill some project and the crash was a hurdle to stop it ! Recommend

  • Khawar
    Sep 18, 2010 - 4:21PM

    I don’t think this is the real conversation between the pilot and ATC. This does not sound like pilot language!!Recommend

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