In a bizarre chain of events following the Bhoja Air crash, the chairman of the Capital Development Authority (CDA) flew to China hours after being booked by the Capital police for illegally keeping both the black box and cockpit voice recorder (CVR) at his “home for 24 hours”.
Farkhand Iqbal – who spearheaded the rescue operation – was booked after the authorities found that he had taken the black box and CVR of the crashed plane to his house and planned to present them to the investigation team during a press conference, sources in Islamabad Capital Administration (ICT) revealed.
“The CDA chairman has gone to China,” confirmed Ramzan Sajid, CDA’s spokesperson. Sources said the trip had been scheduled a month before in connection with a conference.
International civil aviation rules stipulate that the black box and CVR of crashed flights must be preserved in a dry container to secure the data from possible moisture.
Unaware of the finer points governing aviation rules, the CDA chairman took both the flight recorders of the crashed plane – which killed all the 127 people onboard on Friday – to his house without lawful authority, prompting authorities to take action against him.
“Told you so”
Exasperated at the government’s failure to launch an inquiry into the airworthiness of all public and private aircraft, Peshawar High Court (PHC) Chief Justice Dost Muhammad Khan said if court orders during the Airblue case were followed the Bhoja Air crash could have been avoided.
At a hearing of several cases on Monday, Justice Khan expressed his dissatisfaction at the country’s domestic aviation sector and said: “Our orders were defied, but if they had been followed, dozens of innocent lives could have been saved.”
It appears that the chief justice was not actually hearing any cases related to either the Airblue or the Bhoja Air tragedies, but decided to take up the issue with the government’s lawyers on what was the first working day of the court in the wake of the latest crash.
Justice Khan reminded the government that in the aftermath of the Airblue crash, the PHC had ordered the defence ministry to conduct a comprehensive inquiry into the flying capacity of all planes in the domestic aviation sector within 90 days — an order that the government pleaded unconvincingly that it had complied with.
“Not even a single step has so far been taken. What is the government doing?” asked the chief justice. “Those orders were meant to prevent incidents like these [Bhoja Air crash].”
Following the directives issued by the defence ministry which seeks “to conduct shakedown checks of all passenger planes”, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) ‘temporarily’ suspended Bhoja Air’s operations by launching an inspection of all private air fleets.
Officials on Monday confirmed to The Express Tribune that Bhoja Air cannot operate its planes until it gets clearance from the Airworthiness Directorate of the CAA.
“The CAA will complete Bhoja planes’ shakedown inspections first. Bhoja Air will continue its operation after getting checks of all its fleet (three passenger planes) successfully,” CAA spokesperson Pervez George told The Express Tribune.
(with addtional reporting by Umer Farooq in peshawar)
Published in The Express Tribune, April 24th, 2012.