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Pakistan govt forms joint investigation team to probe PIA plane crash

The Pakistan government has formed a joint investigation team to step up the pace of the probe into last month’s crash of a PIA aircraft in Karachi that killed 98 people.

The joint investigation team (JIT) was constituted on Friday, comprising officials from the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), to probe the accident involving an aircraft of the national carrier, Pakistan International Airlines (PIA). The accident was one of the worst in Pakistan’s aviation history.

“The three-member JIT headed by FIA Immigration Lahore Additional Director Imran Yaqoob, is tasked to finalise the matter on top priority and submit the report to the government at the earliest,” an FIA official told PTI.

The official said the JIT has been constituted in compliance with the Senate Committee on Interior which took note of the plane crash and asked the government to constitute a high-power committee.

A four-member team of the Aircraft Accident and Investigation Board (AAIB) led by Air Commodore Muhammad Usman Ghani has already been investigating the crash of Flight PK-8303.

Besides, a French team also visited Pakistan to conduct an independent probe and collected evidence from the crash site as well as inspected the runway.

The Pakistan government has said that it will make the preliminary report of the AAIB team public on June 22.

The PIA Airbus A-320 aircraft, with 99 people on board, crashed in the Model Colony near Jinnah International Airport in Karachi on May 22, killing 97 people. Two passengers miraculously survived.

A 13-year-old girl who was injured on the ground later succumbed to her injuries, taking the death toll in the incident to 98.

The Senate Committee has recommended that the FIA office in Lahore should examine if the engineering branch of the PIA at Lahore was being maintained as per the given international standards and how many times the small components of the aircraft involved in the accident had been made/repaired from local companies/workshops.

The Committee said it was felt that the maintenance system of aircraft had been deteriorating day by day and becoming irresponsible which was visibly noted over the past few tragic incidents.

“All aircraft of PIA should be retested, overhauled and the maintenance must be done by PIA and the certificates with responsibility be given before bringing the aircraft on the runway to avoid such incidents in future, following internationally acknowledged air safety rules to make Pakistani airspace safest for flying,” it said.

It also called for a detailed record of the maintenance of the crashed aircraft.

“It is reported that error was being shown on the cockpit of the plane. Who was the authorised officer to sign the clearance certificate of the said plane? Was the clearance certificate also signed by the Captain? This plane remained under dry lease to China and what was its condition when this plane was received back from China?” the Senate Committee questioned.

It further said that Capitan Sajjad Gul, who was operating the flight, made three Mayday calls requesting the ground staff that there was an error in the plane but his three emergency calls for emergency response could not convince the ground staff to respond. “Who was the staff member on the ground who declared the said emergency call as a light one?”

It said that one could visibly see that both engines of the plane were on fire. While the plane successfully reached Karachi, the shutting of both engines of the plane was reported by the pilot. If the engines were shut, how did the engines catch fire?

The committee questioned that if the captain was apprehensive that both engines were shut and landing gear was stuck, then why was he not allowed to belly land immediately after his first call if the facility was available at the Karachi Airport?

This is the first major aircraft crash in Pakistan after December 7, 2016 when a PIA ATR-42 aircraft from Chitral to Islamabad crashed midway. The crash claimed the lives of all 48 passengers and the crew.

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