Airbus technical experts from France reach Pakistan to assist in PIA crash probe

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A team of technical experts from the Airbus aerospace company arrived in Pakistan for an independent probe into the PIA plane crash involving its aircraft in which 97 people were killed in one of the most catastrophic aviation disasters in the country’s history, according to a media report on Tuesday.

The team of experts from an Airbus facility in the French city of Toulouse will inspect the runway of the Jinnah International Airport here and the mishap site where the national flag carrier’s flight PK-8303 from Lahore crash landed on Friday, Geo News reported.

The Netherlands-headquartered international aerospace company will run an independent investigation into the plane crash, involving an Airbus A-320, reportedly due to an engine failure, it said.

Soon after the incident, Pakistani authorities had cordoned off the mishap site and banned the transfer of objects until the Airbus team arrived to carry out a formal investigation, according to the report.

The Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) and Air France will assist the plane manufacturer which does not have any conclusive details yet, it said.

Airbus, in a letter to all the airlines operating the A-320 narrow-body jets, has vowed to provide full technical cooperation to the PIA, Air France and engine manufacturer CFM International.

The aircraft was handed over to the PIA in 2014 and had completed 47,100 flight hours and 25,860 flight cycles until its crash, the report said.

Meanwhile, the mortal remains of three passengers were handed over to their families in Islamabad.

The bodies of the victims are being identified via DNA testing as it was near-impossible for families to identify the deceased due to the severe burns they had sustained.

A point of collection for the DNA tests has been set up at the Karachi University’s Forensic DNA Laboratory.

Ninety-seven people were killed and two miraculously survived in the incident on Friday, one of the most catastrophic aviation disasters in Pakistan’s aviation history. Pakistani investigators are trying to find out if the crash is attributable to a pilot error or a technical glitch.

According to a report prepared by the country’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), the plane’s engines had scraped the runway thrice on the pilot’s first attempt to land, causing friction and sparks recorded by the experts.

Experts said the failure to achieve the directed height indicates that the engines were not responding. The aircraft, thereafter, tilted and crashed suddenly.

The flight crashed at the Jinnah Garden area near Model Colony in Malir on Friday afternoon, minutes before its landing in Karachi’s Jinnah International Airport. Eleven people on the ground were injured.

The Pakistani probe team is expected to submit a full report on the crash in about three months.

According to the PIA’s engineering and maintenance department, the last check of the plane was done on March 21 this year and it had flown from Muscat to Lahore a day before the crash.

The investigators would have to see what caused both engines to stop working. It could be a bird hit or the pilot accidentally shutting off the wrong engine. It is rare for both engines to shut down simultaneously, according to the local media reports.

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Pakistan government has allowed the limited domestic flight operations from five major airports – Islamabad, Karachi, Lahore, Peshawar and Quetta – from May 16.