Air Crash Investigation: No Justifiable End?

By M. Tahir Khan.

7th of December, 2016. Flight PK 661 of the Pakistan International airlines, inbound Islamabad from Chitral, plummeted to its end near Havelian, Abbotabad. This catastrophe took the lives of 47 men, women and children, including the pop star turned religious icon Junaid Jamshaid.

There was chaos; that is always the first phase. Mismanagement of the rescue efforts, unavailability of immediate resources and sheer panic dominated the crash site. The devastating news became cold, hard fact, turning tears to prayers and eventually, the television screens grew wary of all the gloom. The Honorable Prime Minister ordered an inquiry as soon as possible and directed that a senior Pakistan Air Force official be included in the investigation.

The End.

Yes, the end. In the last decade, hundreds of people have plummeted to their deaths in commercial airliners. The story always ends here: an investigation team was formed.

Some of the times, the investigative team is pressured into delivering results, so they go for the most convenient explanation: the pilot was at fault. The pilot wasn’t attentive. The pilot was drunk. The pilot didn’t communicate the error right. The pilot lost control of a situation. This convenient explanation is the result of a lot of delay factors: the procurement companies need to settle the damages or there are living people at fault that need to be saved, the management is responsible for not replacing components or the aircraft itself. Just the recent patterns give it all away.

Airblue 202: took 142 lives. Justification: pilot error. This was one of the largest colossal damage air crash incidents in the history of Pakistan. The Ill-fated 202 went head on into heavy fog and dense rain clouds, lost visual contact with the terrain and crashed. No evidence of any prior ATC warning about the visibility, so the pilot was completely at fault.

Bhoja air 213: 127 fatalities

Justification: microburst induced windshear countered by “Inappropriate pilot response”. The plane made visual contact with the runway, and then there was a cloud phenomenon and the plane crashed. So the pilot had an inappropriate response.

Beechcraft 1900 crash 2010

21 fatalities (all on board)

Justification: The pilot had reported a problem in the engine shortly before the incident. The pilots later lost control of the aircraft and crashed. So it is safe to say that the pilot was at error, ignoring the citation that the pilot had reported an error beforehand.

The story revolving around the ill-fated 661 is that one of the Turboprop engines flamed out; the pilot needed to apply maximum thrust to the remaining engine, which upon the application, burst into flames. That is the first eavesdrop.

Flight 661, awaits a decision. 47 lives and 47 families need a justification. One that could bring them peace, one that could set a precedent of not blaming the dead and getting away with it; there needs to be a proper mechanism in place to improvise the state of affairs and avoid such catastrophes in the future. Air travel, by statistics, is the safest travelling mode. Pakistanis, will start to think otherwise.

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