Thursday, July 29, 2010

Airblue crash investigation to start as pilots cry fatigue

Neelam mathews

The Pakistan Air Lines Pilots Association (PALPA), President Captain Sohail Baloch has said the Airblue Airbus 321 flight that crashed and killed 152 on board near Islamabad could be attributed to pilot fatigue. The aircraft lost communication with the control tower following bad weather.

The impact height is said to be around 3000 ft. and crash site is 35 to 40 degree off runway 30. Airblue flight 202 took off from Jinnah International Airport in Karachi on early Wednesday morning and was expected to land at Benazir Bhutto International Airport in Islamabad.

Airblue has 3 A321s- one down now - and 2 A319s.

“The pilot may be suffering from accumulated fatigue because they are not given adequate leave,” Baloch told a private news channel.

Baloch said the route was not a no-fly zone, as was being speculated. The plane exceeded the safety distance due to bad weather. He said “this decision was taken by the pilot who could not determine the appropriate landing route” and the ISL system’s access ended a little before Islamabad and the pilot had to resort to visual queues for landing.

”There could be other reasons to the crash, which will only be uncovered after completion of investigation,” he was quoted saying.

The last major plane crash in Pakistan was in July 2006 when a twin-engine Fokker F-27 of Pakistan International Airlines crashed on the outskirts of Multan, killing all 45 people on board.

The only previous recorded accident for Airblue was a tail-strike in May 2008 at Quetta airport by one of the airline's Airbus 321 jets. There were no casualties.

Airbus said the aircraft was leased to Airblue in January 2006 and had accumulated approximately 34,000 flight hours in some 13,500 flights. It was powered by IAE V2533 engines. Airbus will provide full technical assistance to the Authorities of Pakistan, who will be responsible for the investigation into the accident.

AirBlue has cancelled all its flights until initial investigation is done. As Pakistan’s second largest carrier flights cancellations will affect hundreds of tourists.

Airblue has been facing financial difficulties in the past, says a pilot. The status of their order of 14 new A320s is 'unknown'. “A brand new A320 was parked at Toulouse for over a year and not delivered,” he adds.

“Unfortunately in Pakistan passenger safety issues are not given much importance,” Sohail said at a safety conference earlier this month.

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