Confirmed Pakistan's Airbus A320 Jet Crash death toll at 97 - airline CEO

Airbus said the jet first flew in 2004 and was fitted with engines built by CFM International, co-owned by General Electric and France’s Safran.

 

KARACHI/ISLAMABAD/Paris:

At least 97 people are confirmed to have been killed in a plane crash in a residential area of Pakistan’s largest city, Karachi, Pakistan International Airlines’ (PIA) chief executive said on Friday.

 

The Airbus jet with 99 people on board crashed while approaching the airport. Two passengers are known to have survived.

 

“Forty-one dead are confirmed in the plane crash,” CEO Arshad Malik told a news conference.

 

He said Pakistan’s independent safety investigations agency would inquire into the crash.

 

A Pakistan International Airlines Airbus jet with 99 people on board crashed into residential buildings in the Pakistani city of Karachi on Friday afternoon while approaching the airport.At least two passengers survived but many others were feared dead.

 

Smoke billowed from the scene where flight PK 8303 came down at about 2:45 p.m. (0945 GMT). Twisted sections of fuselage lay in the rubble of multi-storey buildings as ambulances rushed through chaotic crowds.At least two passengers survived - including Zafar Masood, president of the Bank of Punjab, the Sindh provincial government said. The bank said he had suffered some fractures but was “conscious and responding well”.

 

Seemin Jamali, executive director at the nearby Jinnah Hospital, said 17 dead bodies and six wounded people had been brought in. There were no estimates of casualties on the ground.

 

“The aeroplane first hit a mobile tower and crashed over houses,” witness Shakeel Ahmed said near the site, a few kilometres short of the airport.

 

The Airbus A320 was flying from the eastern city of Lahore to Karachi in the south just as Pakistan was resuming domestic flights in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, according to the aircraft tracking website FlightRadar24.

 

“WE HAVE LOST ENGINES”
The crash happened on the eve of the Muslim festival of Eid, when Pakistanis traditionally travel to visit relatives.

 

The plane was on its second attempt to land after cancelling a previous one in a routine manoeuvre known as a go-around, one person familiar with the investigation said.

 

The pilot told air traffic controllers he had lost power from both engines, according to a recording posted on liveatc.net, a widely respected aviation monitoring website.

 

“We are returning back, sir, we have lost engines,” a man was heard saying in a recording released by the website. The controller freed up both the airport’s runways but moments later the man called “Mayday! Mayday! Mayday!”.

 

There was no further communication from the plane, according to the tape, which could not immediately be authenticated.

 

“The last we heard from the pilot was that he has some technical problem,” said the state carrier’s spokesman, Abdullah H. Khan.“He was told from the final approach that both the runways were ready where he can land, but the pilot decided that he wanted to do (a) go-round ... It is a very tragic incident.”

 

Another senior civil aviation official told Reuters it appeared the plane had been unable to lower its undercarriage for the first approach due to a technical fault, but it was too early to determine the cause.

 

he pilot of a crashed Pakistan International Airlines jet sent a Mayday and told controllers the aircraft had lost power from both its engines on its second attempt to land, according to a recording posted on monitoring website liveatc.net.

 

After the aircraft reportedly called off an earlier attempt to land and went around for a second attempt, a controller radioed the pilot of flight 8303 that he appeared to be turning left, suggesting he was off-course.

 

The pilot replied, “We are returning back, sir, we have lost engines,” and the controller cleared the plane to land on either of Karachi airport’s two West-Southwest-facing runways.

 

Twelve seconds later the pilot called “Mayday, Mayday, Mayday” and was again cleared to use either runway. There was no further communication from the aircraft, reported to be an Airbus A320, according to the audio from liveatc.net, a respected source for in-flight recordings.

 

SEARCH FOR BLACK BOXES
A search immediately began for the two flight recorders or ‘black boxes’, one for cockpit conversations and the other for data, which could provide vital clues.

 

Aviation safety experts say air crashes typically have multiple causes, and that it is too early to understand them within the first hours or days.

 

Army and rescue services rushed to the area, which appeared to be densely populated. Footage showed cars on fire.

 

Prime Minister Imran Khan tweeted: “Shocked & saddened by the PIA crash. Am in touch with PIA CEO Arshad Malik, who has left for Karachi & with the rescue & relief teams on ground as this is the priority right now.

 

“Immediate inquiry will be instituted. Prayers & condolences go to families of the deceased.”

 

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi also offered condolences.

 

It’s the second plane crash for the state-owned carrier in less than four years. Pakistan International’s chairman resigned in late 2016, less than a week after the crash of an ATR 42 turboprop killed 47 people.

 

“Although the public sector national carrier’s administration has been mismanaged for decades, this never reflected the engineering competence,” said Burzine Waghmar, a member of the Centre for the Study of Pakistan at SOAS University of London. “PIA’s maintenance and engineering is second to none.”

 

The airline, founded in 1946, suffered as many as 51 safety-related incidents before Friday’s crash, according to data from Aviation Safety Network.

 

The crashed A320 joined the airline six years ago and had a major check in March, according to a statement by the local Civil Aviation Authority. It carried out eight flights since March 21 after the nation restarted flights after easing its coronavirus related lockdown.

 

The jet was previously flown by China Eastern Airlines from 2004 until 2014, the Associated Press reported, citing ownership records. It was then added to PIA’s fleet under a lease from GE Capital Aviation Services, the AP said.
 

Airbus said it was providing technical assistance to France’s Bureau d’Enquêtes et d’Analyses and to Pakistani authorities in charge of the investigation. The company is working on getting a team to the crash site, according to a person familiar with the matter.

 

The coronavirus pandemic could complicate things as investigators traveling to the site would have to comply with local quarantine regulations unless they receive special exemptions. Pakistan will also form a four-member body to investigate, and expects to submit an initial statement within a month, its civil aviation authority said.

 

Engine manufacturer CFM International and the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board are monitoring the situation, representatives for both said. CFM is a joint venture of General Electric Co. and Safran SA.

 

Airbus said the jet first flew in 2004 and was fitted with engines built by CFM International, co-owned by General Electric and France’s Safran.

 

Pakistan’s worst plane disaster was in 2010, when an AirBlue flight crashed near Islamabad, killing 152 people.


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