Airblue crash anniversary: Could lives have been saved?

Published: July 28, 2013
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Family members of the victims of Airblue plane crash mourn. PHOTO: AFP/FILE

Family members of the victims of Airblue plane crash mourn. PHOTO: AFP/FILE

Family members of the victims of Airblue plane crash mourn. PHOTO: AFP/FILE Family members of the crash victims placing candles for their loved ones. PHOTO: FILE
ISLAMABAD: 

Three years after Airblue flight ED-202 crashed into the Margalla Hills, relatives of the victims are still yearning for justice, and wondering how many lives could have been saved if the authorities took remedial action after the crash.

The families of the crash victims were certain that the Bhoja Air crash in April 2012 could have been avoided if the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) had followed court orders.

In January 2011, the Peshawar High Court (PHC) had ordered the CAA to conduct a safety audit and inspection of airplanes of all airlines and of the CAA’s ground facilities within three months, according to Colonel (retd) Shamim Shaikh.

“Had the CAA conducted the audit on time, the Bhoja crash could have been avoided,” said Shaikh, the north zone coordinator for the Airblue Crash Affectees Group (ACAG).

Hassan Adeel — Shaikh’s 28-year-old son — was one of the 152 passengers and crew members who perished when ED-202 crashed in to Islamabad’s Margalla Hills on July 28, 2010.

Even now, an independent safety investigation board has not materialised and some families have not been compensated.

Airblue sources claimed the airline had paid Rs5.55 million each as compensation to the families of 120 victims, despite having a legal liability of only one million rupees each. The rest of the families have not been compensated because of ongoing litigation.

ACAG members believe private airlines in Pakistan have become untouchable and they claim the PHC’s orders are not being followed.

The PHC had ordered the inspection and audit of aircrafts during the hearing of a writ petition regarding the Airblue crash. The petition was filed in December 2010 by Marvi Memon — an MNA at the time — and the families of some of the crash victims. The next hearing in that case is scheduled for September.

Shaikh claimed that the CAA did not conduct the inspection in a timely manner. CAA spokesperson Mehmood Hussain did not respond when approached for comment.

However, in August 2012, three months after the Bhoja Air crash in Islamabad took the lives of all 127 passengers and crew members on board, lawyers representing the CAA told the PHC that an inspection of aircrafts belonging to all airlines had indeed been carried out.

Qaiser Zulfiqar, an ACAG member who lost his brother in the crash, said the victims’ families are not getting justice because private airlines are colluding against them and also harming national interests.

“Private airlines have strategically destroyed Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) so that their own businesses could grow,” said Zulfiqar. “Even the CAA is under their influence.”

Zulfiqar said the new Aviation Division formed by the federal government has only focused on PIA and the CAA without touching upon private airlines, even though all the recent air crashes in Pakistan are linked to private airlines.

The PHC had also ordered the CAA to reinvestigate the crash with the help of foreign experts, according to AGAC members. Instead, the CAA simply had its old report about the air crash reviewed by foreign experts and resubmitted it in April, Shaikh alleged.

According to the CAA’s earlier investigation report, the flight’s captain, Pervez Iqbal Chaudhry, had ignored the air traffic controller and violated standard procedures and flying discipline, which led to the air crash and the loss of 152 lives.

Shaikh said no answers have been provided as to why the pilot acted in such a manner.

Attempts to reach Airblue officials for comment via phone and email over the weekend went unanswered.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 28th, 2013.

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Reader Comments (8)

  • Mansoor Ishfaq
    Jul 28, 2013 - 11:28AM

    As an aviation expert, till what I have read about these two events Jet Blue and Bhoja, booth accidents could be avoided if proper international safety standards were followed. To my knowledge Islamabad airport has CAT I runway. For visibility less than 1/2 miles or 3/4 miles a runway should have proper NAVAids (lighting, glide slope and radar systems) to make safe operations. Islamabad airport runway should be shut down for landing during sever weather condition. Which did not happen in booth cases. Rather booth aircrafts were allowed to land with high winds and low visibility. Question is if CAA and tower learned a lesson or they still operating in bad weather conditions.

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  • m omar
    Jul 28, 2013 - 12:47PM

    @Mansoor: The tower in Chalala is controlled by PAF and is not under direct control by CAA so all civil safety protocols cannot be implemented. As you can see that PAF aircraft and staff are trained for intense weather conditions compared to civil aircraft same logic goes for tower control as well. On a side note most of our civil pilots in private airliners also come from PAF as well as there are very less options for training pure civil pilots mostly for economic reasons.

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  • expaki
    Jul 28, 2013 - 2:12PM

    @Mansoor Ishfaq: ” Question is if CAA and tower learned a lesson or they still operating in bad weather conditions ” You do not ask QUESTIONS to PACHYDERMS.

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  • meekal a ahmed
    Jul 28, 2013 - 2:58PM

    @Mansoor Ishfaq:

    Islamabad airport does have proper nav-aids including a precision ILS to runway 30. The opposite side runway 12 does not have an ILS which is why the landing procedure is strictly visual. The Air Blue jet was not visual but in cloud, and upon entering cloud he must break-off his approach and either go into the hold (a race-track holding pattern), or divert to Lahore.

    You can’t shut down an airport because of “bad” weather. All airports have “minimums”, clearly noted on approach charts. If minimums are breached, then flight operations have to be halted/suspended.

    While the weather was stormy in the case of both accidents, other flights before and after the accidents had no problems, taking-off and landing.

    Sheikh Sahib is right. We know what happened, we don’t know why.

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  • bilal
    Jul 28, 2013 - 4:26PM

    From: ~ PK Internal Communication
    Sent: Thursday, July 29, 2010 3:22 PM
    Subject: All staff message on behalf of Salman Sarwar Butt

    Dear Colleagues

    Following the tragic news of the unfortunate plane crash that took place in Margalla Hills, Islamabad yesterday, with profound grief, I would like to share that our colleague Hassan Javed Khan, RPB Manager, Khayaban-e- Shahbaz – Defence Branch, Karachi was amongst the passengers onboard the Air Blue flight ED202.

    Hassan joined us in May 2008 as RM and was elevated to RPB Manager in September 2009. He was widely identified amongst the top performers for Retail Banking and an unsurpassed achiever in various facets of life. He was recognized as the top country RPB Manager for 2009 for his superior performance in deposit growth. Hassan completed his MSc in Investment and Finance with Distinction from Queen Mary, University of London, UK

    During the last quarter of 2009, Hassan was selected as one of 12 candidates to represent Sindh (from out of 6000 applicants) in an elite group of youth parliamentarians for a project supported by PILDAT – ‘Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency’ and the Global Opportunities Fund of the ‘UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office’.

    Following an array of achievements in the Youth Parliament, Hassan was recently elected as Prime Minister of the Youth Parliament Pakistan** and was expected to meet the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom in September to share and represent the thoughts of the youth in Pakistan. In the unfortunate crash yesterday, Hassan was accompanied with 5 other youth parliamentarians who were going to Islamabad to attend a session of the Youth Parliament. A great loss for not only RBS but also Pakistan.

    I extend my sincere condolence and sympathy to Hassan’s family* in this moment of tragedy and would like the RBS family to share solidarity to extend our deepest condolences towards the irreparable loss for Hassan’s family and the lives of all the victims of this unsightly and unfortunate accident.

    Our thoughts and prayers shall go out to all touched by this ill fated event.

    Sincerely,

    Salman Sarwar Butt

    Acting CEO – RBS Pakistan

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  • Mansoor Ishfaq
    Jul 28, 2013 - 11:47PM

    @meekal a ahmed: The question is CAT I ILS or CAT II/III ILS ? CAT I doesn’t allow landing for visibility less than 1/2 or 3/4 miles. And landing should be halted and should be diverted. Did someone took interviews to the poilets of before and after landings of other flights same day with same conditions to find out how difficult it was practically? Who ever controlling tower need to implement safety standards properly. All I m saying its not poilets fault alone. Air Force retired poilets does not mean that they should allow to land with out proper procedures. Need SRM safety Risk Management study to find out risk matrix and development of proper procedures. Poilets CAA, tower and all stack holder should be part of this process.

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  • Hassan
    Jul 29, 2013 - 8:13AM

    Time to focus on why first pilot was at fault and why second pilot failed to take control.

    I hope these CRM procedures are now properly enforced in all Airlines. And in bad weather, flights are properly diverted to nearby locations.

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