DESPARDES — An experienced crew was on board the ill-fated PIA flight 8303 — a A380 was flying from Lahore to Karachi. It crashed near the airport on Friday as it re-approached to land. In particular, the captain had over 15,000 hours, while the first officer had over 3,000 hours.
No emergency was declared during the first attempt to land –without landing gears.
The crew didn’t communicate any emergency to air traffic control during the first approach, which would typically be standard if there was a known gear issue.
- The plane attempted to land and then executed a go around (TAGO = take off and go around).
- After the first go around, the pilot reported they “lost engines,” and then shortly thereafter declared a mayday. It was TAGOing at 2000 feet to 1800 feet.
- The landing gear wasn’t lowered during the first approach
- The plane’s engines made contact with the runway more than one time — a normal practice during belly landing.
- There were two survivors on the flight.
The survivors were seated in seat 1C (in the first row, near the exit) and in seat 10C (also an emergency exit row).
97 people have been confirmed dead. The plane crashed a few hundred feet away from the runway in a congested residential area.
The flight was operated by a plane with the registration code AP-BLD, which is a 16 year old aircraft that was delivered in 2004. The plane joined PIA’s fleet in 2014, after operating for China Eastern for roughly a decade.
It was declared airworthy in April. The tragic incident happened as it occured just days after domestic flights resumed in the country (they resumed last Saturday after a two month suspension), and right at the end of Ramadan and advent of Eid ul Fitr on Sunday.
A PIA spokesperson confirmed that the landing gear was not fully lowered prior to the first approach. We don’t know if it was partially lowered or just wasn’t lowered at all, and we are sure the investigation will determine this.
Generally speaking, an alarm would go off if you’re at a low altitude without the gear extended, an expert says.
While belly landing was discussed between the pilot and the ATC during the second attempt, it wasn’t apparently discussed during the first attempt.
The airborne ill-fated plane’s both the engines were aflame during TAGO, as the picture on top indicates.
Those are the facts we know, but what we don’t know is:
- If there was a landing gear problem, why didn’t the crew inform the Air Traffic Controller, and tried to touch down?
- Was this an actual attempted belly landing, even though that intent wasn’t communicated to air traffic control?
- Belly landing was discussed after the first attempt to safely land failed.
- How did the plane have enough power to get airborne again after engines scraped the runway for up to 2,500 feet, which would cause a massive amount of friction?
“It was a disastrous pilot error”, said an observer in Islamabad, when asked to comment. “PIA has lost its professional culture and ethics”.
“We don’t deserve this as a nation”.
We’ll have to wait for the full investigation to find out what happened.