Two Pakistan Air Force (PAF) trainer aircraft collided in mid-air on Thursday, killing the four pilots. Eleven people were injured as the debris from the planes crashed on houses near the Rashakai interchange in Risalpur. The collision occurred around 10:20 am while the two aircraft were conducting routine training flights.
A press release issued from PAF Base Risalpur stated: “Two PAF Mushshak aircraft, while on a routine training mission, crashed near Rashakai, Risalpur. Four pilots were martyred. A board of inquiry has been ordered to determine the cause of accident.”
Talking to The Express Tribune, Nowshera district police officer (DPO) Muhammad Hussain said the two aircraft crashed just eight kilometres away from PAF Base Risalpur. According to his account, the aircraft’s wings collided, setting both on fire.
“The debris fell on two houses injuring six people,” he maintained, adding that the roofs of the houses were destroyed. Hussain said that the injured, along with the pilots’ bodies, were rushed to the Nowshera Combined Military Hospital (CMH).
An eyewitness Shahzad told The Express Tribune that “One of the pilots swerved his plane towards the other, colliding with its wing.” He added that one plane fell on the boundary wall of Niaz’s house, while the other crashed on the roof of another house. The latter was flying low and had caught fire.
He said people rushed to the crash site, adding that the pilots cried for help from their cockpit but no one could help them through the flames.
Locals claimed that the fire brigade arrived late and since ambulance service was unavailable, they pulled the bodies out from the planes and rushed the injured to the hospitals on their own.
Hospital officials claimed they received six civilians with minor injuries.
Sub-inspector Haji Muhammad Khan said that the six injured belonged to Afsar Khan’s family and were wounded during the second crash.
They are Muhammad Khan, Musa, Farhan, Tufail, Taj Muhammad, Fatima and Shahida Bibi.
The police official added that the first crash injured Niaz’s wife, Nazakat Bibi, son, Mumlikat and daughter, Zaibun Nisa along with Pir Muhammad, their grandfather.
PAF pilots Squadron Leader Zaigham Ali from Karachi, Squadron Leader Moazam from Faisalabad, Squadron Leader Maqsood from Haripur and Flight Lieutenant Mustafa were laid to rest in their hometowns, according to the PAF release.
The MFI-17 Mushshak, built by the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC), is a licensed version of the Saab Safari aircraft.
The propeller driven aircraft is flown both by the PAF and Pakistan Army Aviation. It is largely employed as a basic flight trainer and observation aircraft.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 18th, 2012.