KARACHI: A twin-engine aircraft carrying 21 people crashed in the military’s central ordnance depot area near Karachi’s Jinnah International Airport on Friday shortly after takeoff at 7.13 am. There were no survivors.
Fifteen of the passengers were employees of an Italian oil and gas exploration company, ENI. The employees, including one Italian citizen, were on their way to work at the Bhit Shah gas field in Sindh’s Jamshoro district. Two other passengers were contractors with ENI.
The company identified them as Altaf Hussain Khalid, Hussain Sadaqat, Jamali Nisar Ahmed, Khan Noor, Moazzam Saeed, Nadeem Ahmed, Nizamani Muhammad Azam, Rafique Sajid, Rana Muhammad Alam, Raza Amir, Saleemuddin, Sasso Antonio (Italian), Shah Iqbal Hussain, Siddique Shahid, Syed Anwar Imran, Syed Irshad Ali and Tahir Muhammad.
ENI had chartered the private airliner, JSAir, owned by the Jehangir Siddiqui Group of Companies, under a contract it signed in July 2007.
Three crew members of JSAir, including Chief Pilot (and general manager operations) Captain Naeemul Haq, First Officer Captain Muhammad Nauman Shamsi and flight technician Tariq Mehmood were also killed in the ill-fated flight. An Airport Security Force (ASF) sub-inspector Zafar Iqbal was also on board the flight.
According to JSAir manager Javedul Haque, the 19-seater airplane, Beechcraft 1900, had no safety or maintenance issues and was fit to fly before the accident occurred. “It was on a routine flight and many times the same aircraft had been flown without any problems,” he said.
Haque said the pilots were also very experienced with many flying hours under their belt. The 53-year-old chief pilot was a former squadron leader with the Pakistan Air Force and had over 6,000 flying hours. He was also looking after the flight safety matters of the company as Flight Safety Officer. Meanwhile, 35-year-old Captain Nauman had 800 hours of flying experience.
According to Civil Aviation Authority spokesperson Pervez George, an inquiry committee has been formed to investigate the incident. The team comprises four members, including Safety Investigation Board’s Air Commodore Khwaja Abdul Majeed, Group Captain Mujahid Islam, Sardar Illyas and Dr Afzal Boghio.
Experts from the US-based company that manufactured the plane, Hawker Beechcraft, and international aviation companies are expected to be part of the investigation, George said.
Investigators have found the black box located at the tail end of the aircraft, which will provide important clues as to why the crash happened.
Initial reports, however, suggest that one of the engines malfunctioned on takeoff. George says the pilot informed the control tower and was directed to return to the airport immediately. But when the aircraft took a sharp turn to head back, there was immense pressure on the other engine and it failed as well. It crashed just one nautical mile away from the airport.
CEO ENI Paolo Scaroni and COO Claudio Descalzi are flying to Pakistan to meet with the victims’ families.
Captain Hassam, who was a friend of the deceased co-pilot Nauman, says that it is not unusual for airplanes such as the Beechcraft to have an engine failure. He cautioned the investigators against blaming the pilots and urged that the inquiry report of this incident and all other such accidents be made public.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 6th, 2010.