What went wrong with Airblue ED 202?
The aircraft must have risen several hundred metres before crashing into the mountainside. Does this not point to possible pilot error or a malfunctioning navigation system?
Airblue flight ED-202 crashed with 152 people on board -- 146 members and 6 crew members -- a tragic event indeed.
However, some key issues need to be discussed.
1. The pilot had retired from PIA after that airline's retirement age of 60 - he then got a job with Airblue - whose retirement age is 65.
2. Several comments on our website suggest that out of two runways in Islamabad, the ILS (Instrument Landing System) is operational for only one of the runways -- one is runway 12, the other is runway 30. ILS enables air traffic on the ground to guide a pilot to land in bad weather, such as that happened in Islamabad on July 28, but it works on that runway, which requires the pilot to come around and fly parallel to the Margalla hills. In bad weather, doing this would have been a disaster waiting to happen. If this is the case, surely the other runway, which has a straightforward approach over Murree Road (and hence no mountains in the way), should have ILS as well.
3. One reader -- who has served at senior levels in the GoP and who often travelled to Islamabad -- claims that the route used by the aircraft as it tried to go around and approach for landing and which took it towards the Margalla hills is that way because civilian aircraft cannot use the airspace in the other direction. That airspace is restricted because of Dhamial PAF base which also uses the same airport and because GHQ is nearby. If this is the case, shouldn't this policy be revised for the future?
4. Two people posted on another newspaper's blog site that they had frequently travelled on Airblue and found that the landings and take-offs were odd, in that that landing was practically without any noise, which made the traveller think that the plane was landing using minimal power (he used the word 'gliding') with the pilot taking control using normal engine power once the aircraft had descended significantly. Another traveller on the airline said that he had experienced the same thing. Perhaps, this may not have been an issue with regard to Airblue Flight ED-202 to Islamabad but does the airline actually do this? If this is true, I wonder what the CAA would do about this.
5. Several people have posted on websites of The Express Tribune as well as Dawn that they could see the plane flying very low. Surely the pilot must have had visual confirmation of this i.e. he must have been able to see that the houses down below were probably not that far off. However, the impact is reasonably high up (not as high as Pir Sohawa which is around 1,700 metres above sea level but around the height of Daman-e-Koh), which means that the aircraft must have risen several hundred metres before crashing into the mountainside. Does this not point to possible pilot error or a malfunctioning navigation system, or both?
6. As someone on the Express Tribune website pointed out, inquiries conducted into plane crashes have never been made public in Pakistan. Will this change this time around?