Airblue crash: Foreign experts say CAA withheld vital information

The new investigation report has been submitted to the Ministry of Defence and the PHC.

Umer Farooq November 10, 2012


Investigation experts of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) completed their reinvestigation of the Airblue crash and submitted a report to the Ministry of Defence and the Peshawar High Court (PHC) on Thursday.

Airblue flight 202 crashed in the Margalla Hills on July 28, 2010 killing 146 passengers and six crew members.

During the last case hearing on October 17, the PHC asked the CAA’s senior legal adviser, Obaidur Rehman Abbasi, to share the reinvestigation report with the court when it’s completed.

The report reveals that the incident occurred after the pilot lost control of the aircraft.

It further says that the investigation report made by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), which is available on its website, is incomplete and lacks vital information.

The CAA’s initial investigation, referred to as the draft report, had more details. But after it was sent for a review on March 7, 2011, the CAA director general (DG) ordered that some information be deleted from the final report, which was made public, sources familiar with the ICAO investigation told The Express Tribune. Under CAA rule 281, the DG has the power to share information at his/her discretion.

The reinvestigation was carried out by ICAO Technical Officer Dr Andre Dekok and Standards and Procedure Officer Thormodur Thormodsson.  They mentioned in their report that the draft version—not made public—was only read to them. They were not provided a copy of the draft report as it would violate CAA rules.

According to the ICAO report, the pilot was suffering from spatial disorientation. This condition occurs when a pilot is unable to correctly interpret the aircraft’s attitude (movement), altitude (height) or airspeed, in relation to the point of reference.

“The aircraft went out of the pilot’s control after it abruptly showed an altitude of 3,110ft a few seconds ahead of the incident. The final report contained 15 safety recommendations, which were not in accordance with the ICAO rules,” sources said, quoting the new report.

The sources added that according to ICAO experts, the final report wrongly mentioned that the family members of the crash victims were treated according to the ICAO guidelines.

The CAA’s report does not mention the weather conditions either, a crucial factor leading up to the crash. While the communication between the flight crew and the air traffic controllers is mentioned, no section in the final report was dedicated to communication, the experts said.

“ICAO experts also expressed concerns over the possibility of a conflict of interest since CAA investigation officials had made the report themselves,” sources said.

The Safety Investigation Board (SIB), a body which falls under the CAA, is responsible for investigating air accidents in Pakistan. Foreign experts were quoted as saying that the SIB is not an independent and impartial organisation and can not investigate in a transparent manner.

Sources requesting anonymity said that the ICAO termed the final report on CAA’s website as incomprehensive with no logical flow to explain the plane crash. It lacks factual information to support the claims, sources said. ICAO experts also said that they were denied access to crucial information regarding the flight crew.

The new report mentions that CAA’s investigation does not mention information on the status and maintenance of navigation aids, including runway lights at the time the incident occurred. The foreign experts were told that the draft report included such information.

The international investigators have recommended that the SIB should be turned into an independent entity to avoid misinformation and bureaucratic influences.

Salient points of the ICAO report

• The plane crashed after the pilot lost control

• The pilot was unable to correctly interpret the plane’s movement

• The CAA’s final report lacks vital information

• Foreign experts were denied flight crew information

• Information on maintenance of navigation aids is missing in the CAA’s report

• 15 safety recommendations were not in accordance with the ICAO’s guidelines

Published in The Express Tribune, November 10th, 2012.


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Member Fourth Pillor.. | 8 years ago | Reply

Out of control”, and “abruptly showed altitude of 3,110 feet... both these are actual words copied from the report prepared by the international experts..

Hassan | 8 years ago | Reply

I hope the new report also mentions the rights of the family members of crash victims. The new report and draft report should have been made public. I hope supreme court can ask Gov authorities to present the draft report as well.

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