Airblue crash re-investigation: ATC staff failed to navigate plane to safety, reveals CAA report

Pilot error also blamed for fatal incident.


Our Correspondent March 29, 2013
The Airblue plane crash site. PHOTO: REUTERS

PESHAWAR:


The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) admitted on Thursday for the first time that the pilot and the air traffic control staff were responsible for the 2010 Air Blue crash.


In the re-investigation report of the crash submitted to the Peshawar High Court (PHC), CAA maintained that responsibility for the incident also lay with the air traffic control staff for failing to guide the aircraft out of the crisis. It revealed that the air traffic controller guiding Airblue flight ED202 was inexperienced and as such was unable to discharge his duty.

“Weather forecasts (at the time of the flight) indicated rain, poor visibility and low clouds around the airport. The information regarding the prevalent weather and the type of approach on arrival was in the knowledge of aircrew,” the report submitted before the court reads. It adds that the flight captain violated the prescribed flight discipline for the weather conditions and placed the aircraft in an unsafe situation.

“The air traffic services (both the radar and the control tower), which could have helped the flight out of this situation, also failed to avert a ‘controlled flight into terrain’ (CFIT) due to lack of knowledge and training, and ambiguous procedures in the sort of scenario the aircraft was flying in during the last phase of the flight,” the report further notes.

CAA legal counsel Obaidur Rehman Abbasi, meanwhile, told the bench they will present their recommendations on safety measures at the next hearing, after which the hearing was adjourned.

The summary of the re-investigation report was submitted in response to PHC’s directives issued on February 19. In the previous hearing, the CAA had produced the transcript of the Cockpit Voice Recorder recovered from the crash site. The bench subsequently asked Safety Investigation Board president Air Commodore Muhammad Abdul Basit to summarise the transcript in simple terms due to technical jargon.

Airblue flight ED202, bound for Islamabad, crashed into the Margalla Hills on July 28, 2010, killing all passengers and flight crew on-board.

On November 9, 2012, investigation experts of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) completed their reinvestigation into the Airblue crash and concluded, among other things, that aviation body’s initial investigation report into the incident lacked vital information. The information missing from CAA’s report, according to ICAO experts, included the details on the weather conditions during the flight and the maintenance of navigational aids. The ICAO report also noted that while communication between the flight and the air traffic controllers was mentioned, no section in the final report was dedicated to it.

The foreign experts also maintained that the draft of the first report had more details, but claimed they were omitted after it was reviewed by the CAA director general in March, 2011. They, as such, expressed concern over the possibility of a conflict of interest.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 29th, 2013. 

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COMMENTS (5)

A. Khan | 8 years ago | Reply

@meekal a ahmed: In an ideal or a more civilized place, what you suggest would have been implemented as a first step to support the investigation and enquiry. In Pakistan, we do everything by committee with applicable TA/DA, chair, samosa and biscuits at tax payer's expense. Is there any reason we do not want to do anything more efficiently specially where government is involved ?

Sarkari jaunts is one of the perks for government and military bureaucracy. Do you understand why our country never seems to improve ?

cautious | 8 years ago | Reply

Having air traffic controllers who aren't qualified should send a chill down the spines of every air traveler who has to enter Pakistani airspace - the ramifications of this disclosure may have international ramifications.

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