Pakistan International Crash: Prelim Report Imminent (UPDATED)


The preliminary report has been released. See our story.

Both inflight crew and air traffic controllers are being accused of negligence by the Pakistani Aircraft Accident Investigation Board (AAIB), which has concluded its preliminary report and will release the findings this week. The report is said to confirm earlier reports that the Airbus A320 was on an unstabilized approach, followed by a gear-up landing, a go-around, and then the crash when both engines failed. However, the Pakistani AAIB also called the local controller to task for failing to alert the crew to its attempt to land with the gear stowed and for not warning them that the A320’s engine nacelles had contacted the runway. 

Local media says the report also includes the conclusion that there was no “technical fault” before the aircrew attempted to land the A320 with excessive speed. It eventually contacted the runway at about the halfway point with the gear retracted. The report is said to criticize controllers for “permitting” the landing, while also calling out local aviation authorities for failing to secure the runway to check for debris and other evidence. According to local reports, “fragments of the PIA aircraft’s engine stayed on the runway for 12 hours but the air site unit did not collect them and later other aircrafts were allowed to land.”

Pakistan’s minister for civil aviation said that “the report on the plane accident will be put before the house along with reports on other air crash incidents that occurred since 2010 including Air Blue and Bhoja airlines’ plane crashes in Islamabad, PIA plane crash in Gilgit and other plane accidents.”

The PIA flight to Karachi was carrying 99 passengers and eight crew; 97 people died in the crash and there was significant damage to houses as well. The focus has long been on the pilots’ high-and-fast approach to the airport. According to a written statement by a controller on duty at the time, “When the aircraft was seven nautical miles from touchdown runway 25L passing 5200 feet, it was relatively high as per the standard approach profile. I instructed the pilots twice to discontinue approach and turn left heading 180 which he did not comply and continued to approach runway 25L with his own discretion to establish ILS approach runway 25L. I again warned aircraft at 5 nautical miles from touchdown passing 3500 feet. At 4 nm aircraft was observed approaching 1300 feet with ground speed of 250 knots. Aircraft was observed passing runway threshold at ground speed of 210 knots.”

Marc Cook
KITPLANES Editor in Chief Marc Cook has been in aviation journalism for more than 30 years. He is a 4000-hour instrument-rated, multi-engine pilot with experience in nearly 150 types. He’s completed two kit aircraft, an Aero Designs Pulsar XP and a Glasair Sportsman 2+2, and currently flies a 2002 GlaStar.

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  1. This accident began at 34,000 feet when the crew was late beginning their descent. At one point, they were descending at over 7,000 feet per minute trying to get down to the proper altitude. The crew on the same flight 5 days earlier was also late in beginning their descent and had to descend at over 5,000 feet per minute.

  2. Unbelievable incompetence of flight crew. Way high and fast, no attempt to obtain a stabilized approach with a missed approach, Gear up landing, not notifying ATC that a gear up landing was imminent (assuming they were even aware), landing mid-field, gear up, then going around. What kind of training do these airlines have?
    Were they drunk?

    • They certainly weren’t flying the airplane. That plane won’t, I believe, drop the gear until the approach speed is down to a safe value. So whomever touched the gear lever didn’t see three green. Just one of a comedy of errors.

  3. Some years ago, as an ATC kind of guy, I transfered to the FAA’s Southwest Region. Arriving and beginning check out in the facility control tower, I discovered that the SW Region had a mandatory requirement for controllers that with every landing clearance issued they advice the pilot to “check wheels down, cleared to land”. No exception…Cessna 150s also..everyone. Of course many would reply, “gear down and welded.” Turns out, this requirement was because the Regional director, who owned a Piper Arrow with the auto extend gear had somehow landed it twice gear up. ( I think if you’re going to fast it won’t do it’s auto extend. ) Like the Pakistanis, the Director said if the controllers had told him, it would not have happened. I can think of other reasons though.

    • Many years ago when I owned my first plane (a FG Beechcraft), I had it based at Houston’s Hobby airport. Probably 90+ percent of the traffic was either corporate jets or Southwest Airlines 737s. All of the tower controllers would say “Check gear down, cleared to land”. I heard it so often that I still think that phrase in my mind whenever I hear any tower guy clear me to land. I have often wondered it anyone has done a study to see if controllers reminding aircraft to check their gear would lessen the incidence of gear up landings. It seems like a good idea, but considering the number of people I know who have ignored their plane’s blaring gear horn and bellyed in, I tend to doubt it.

      • Maybe. At least some thought so I guess. During my USAF ATC tower days, “report wheels down, cleared to land” was mandatory for us. At my pilot training command base, RSU units were staffed at the approach end of each runway during training hours. They were required to do gear checks on each landing aircraft. I visited a Navy tower once, Cubi Point. Their tower phrase was after an aircraft reported initial, “report the one eighty, report wheels down, no wheel watch on station.” It was weekend and slow traffic. I guess when busy, they had a wheel watch person out at the runway also. And, when I was checking out in a USAF Aero Club T-34, the Major checking me out required that I say out loud as we turned final, “final, final gear check, gear down.” I still use that old habit today. But then there is the adage, “there are those who have and those who will.”

  4. BBC news reports the pilots were discussing corona virus on approach, thus violating sterile cockpit rules as well.

  5. U.S. pilots vs foreign – hmmm (of course not ALL U.S pilots are not perfect)
    How about the 2 foreign crewed 737 max crashes.
    Many stab problems existed with AA, SWA, etc, but all easily handled.

  6. Stand by for an update to this story, guys. Should be up soon. Spoiler: They did put the gear down at 7000+ feet 10 NM from the airport and then RAISED it again as they reached glideslope intercept.

  7. Regardless of the Airline, the Pakistan Transport Minister comments calls for immediate suspension and further evaluation of all Paki crew members.
    Bastards !!!