Aviation minister says explanation sought from CAA for suggesting pilot was to blame for crash before report finalized
The data from the cockpit voice recorder, and the flight data recorder, of the PK-8303 flight that crashed in Karachi last month have been successfully downloaded and the government will make its preliminary report into the crash public on June 22, Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan said on Thursday.
“The plane crash will also be discussed in the forthcoming session of the National Assembly, and we assure everyone that the probe will be fair and transparent,” he told a press conference in Lahore, adding that following the release of the preliminary report, the government would also release the already completed reports on the Chitral crash of 2016; the Gilgit crash-landing of 2019; and the Islamabad plane crashes of Air Blue, 2010, and Bhoja Air, 2012.
The plane crash, which occurred on May 22 shortly after Pakistan resumed domestic flight operations following the lifting of lockdowns designed to curb the spread of coronavirus, claimed the lives of 98 people, while two passengers survived. The minister said three victims of the plane crash had yet to identified, citing DNA mismatches and other factors. He said one girl, who had in one of houses hit by the plane, had died, while two others had suffered burn injuries. Their families have been compensated for their suffering, he said.
Referring to a letter written by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), in which the CAA suggested the pilot of the crashed A320 had not followed the instructions of air-traffic controllers, he said the government had sought an explanation from the authority.
“Until the inquiry report is finalized, the official in question should not have spoken up. Whatever the official/CAA had to say should have been told to the four-member inquiry board probing the crash,” he said.
The minister said that it was possible that the CAA’s letter was accurate in its claims, but said the information should only have been made public after the inquiry report had been finalized.
The June 2 letter sent by CAA official Iftikhar Ahmed to the PIA’s safety and quality assurance department had claimed “non-compliance of ATC instructions” by pilot Sajjad Gul. It had directed PIA to ensure similar situations are not repeated in future.
To questions, Sarwar said PIA had planned to expand its fleet from 31 to 45 aircraft by 2023, but would have to reconsider this in light of the losses suffered due to the coronavirus pandemic. “The aviation industry has suffered a lot and the national flag carrier has been under a debt of Rs. 482 billion,” he said.