Thursday, April 26, 2012

Pakistan: Airline Crashes In Islamabad Raise Concern Over Flight Crew Competence, Professionalism

A report issued by the Pakistani Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) on Wednesday (April 25) reveals that  the crash of  a Pakistan-registered Airblue Airbus A321 that killed 152 people  in Islamabad on July 28, 2010, was caused by interpersonal conflicts that occurred on the flight deck before the disaster.

In a strange sequence of events, a confused captain and a hostile cockpit atmosphere were attributed to the worst ever airline crash on Pakistani soil.

The CAA said its post-incident analysis of the crash indicated that the flight deck crew "violated all established procedures" in trying to circle and land in bad weather at Islamabad's international airport. The morning flight from Karachi slammed into the Margalla hills overlooking the Pakistani capital in heavy rain and poor visibility, killing all 146 passengers and six crew on board.

According to the CAA's report, Captain Pervez Iqbal Chaudhary was "harsh and snobbish" towards his first officer almost as soon as the aircraft took off, the report said, and this continued during the flight. "After the intermittent humiliating sessions, the first officer generally remained quiet, became underconfident, submissive, and subsequently did not challenge the Captain for any of his errors, breaches and violations," the report said. Even as the plane was about to crash the first officer, 34, did not take control, the report emphasized.

COMMENT: Even more bizarre was the fact that Chaudhary, 61, became confused and displayed visible signs of anxiety, preoccupation, confusion and geographical disorientation in various phases of the flight, particularly as the flight descended on its flight-path into the capital.

Despite the bad weather and visibility of only 3.5 kilometers (two miles), the captain ignored standard procedure for circling to land, lost visual contact with the airfield and tried to follow his own approach, the report said. As the aircraft got closer and closer to the hills, the captain became more confused and failed to take evasive action despite 21 audible warnings from the plane's safety systems telling him he was heading for solid ground.
The CAA identified no technical problem with the aircraft or evidence of sabotage, structural failure or external impact such as bird strikes.  Hence, the crew was solely responsible for the loss of 152 souls. The CAA stressed that the preponderance of serious violations of procedures and breaches of flying discipline placed the aircraft in an unsafe condition over dangerous terrain at low altitude.
Unfortunately, the crash of a Pakistan-registered Boeing 737-200 Bhoja Air airliner near Benazir Bhutto International Airport on Friday (April 20) killing 127 people has done little to build confidence in Pakistani commercial aviation.

The following day (April 21) the Pakistan government barred the head of the airline whose jet crashed near the capital from leaving the country, vowing to investigate a tragedy that has revived fears about the safety of aviation in a country saddled by massive economic problems.
One of the biggest concerns is why did the government in Islamabad even issue an operating license to an airline that had only four aircraft? It should also be noted that Bhoja Air only recently received a permit and began flying last month after it lost its license in 2001 because of financial difficulties.
As a service to our readers, I would like to introduce them to a website I've used for years in helping travelers identify safe commercial carriers. This site can be found at: http://www.airsafe.com, and is a consortium of governmental reports that list a chronological break-down of all air accidents by country.

In past trips to Pakistan, I have avoided flying aboard Pakistan-registered aircraft, largely because of safety concerns.