Airblue inquiry finds captain uneasy, confused
PESHAWAR, Dec 21: Inquiry into the last year’s Airblue plane crash into the Margalla Hills of Islamabad has said the captain showed signs of anxiety, preoccupation, confusion and geographical disorientation in various phases of the flight, especially after commencement of descent.
All 152 passengers and crew on board died in the July 28, 2010 incident.
The 38 pages inquiry report submitted to the Peshawar High Court by a team headed by Air Commodore Khwaja A Majeed a day ago said deteriorated weather conditions were a factor in the causation of the crash and that no evidence of any internal or external sabotage, incapacitation of aircraft systems, in-flight fire, bird strike or structural fatigue had been found.
According to the report, Airblue crash has been finalised as a case of Controlled Flight into Terrain (CFIT) in which aircrew failed to display superior judgment and professional skills in a self created unsafe environment.
“In their pursuit to land in inclement weather, they committed serious violations of procedures and breaches of flying discipline, which put the aircraft in an unsafe condition over dangerous terrain at low altitude.
“Captain Pervez Iqbal Chaudhry’s behaviour towards the flying officer was harsh, snobbish and contrary to establish norms. This undesired activity of the captain curbed the initiative of the first officer (FO), created a tense and undesirable environment, and a very conspicuous communication barrier in the cockpit, portraying a classic CRM (Crew Resource Management) failure.”
The report said the captain had prior knowledge of the decision by two captains flying ahead of him.
“While the captain of PK-356 managed to land in the third attempt, the captain of China Southern decided to divert back to Urumchi (China). The captain of the mishap flight opted to follow PK-356 but with non-standard approach procedure.”
The report said though aircrew captain was fit to undertake the flight on the mishap day, his portrayed behaviour and efficiency was observed to have deteriorated with the inclement weather at the Benazir Bhutto International Airport (BBIAP).
It further said the chain of events leading to the accident began with the commencement of the flight where the captain was heard to be confusing BBIAP, Islamabad, with HIAP (Jinnah International Airport), Karachi, while planning FMS (Flight Management System) and Khanpur Lake (Wah) with Kahuta area during holding pattern.
“This state continued when the captain of the mishap flight violated the prescribed Circling approach Procedure for RWY-12 by descending below Minimum Descent Allowed (i.e 2,300 feet instead of maintaining 2,510 feet) losing visual contact with the airfield, etc,” it said.
About the sequence of events, the report said during initial climb, the captain tested the knowledge of the FO and used harsh words and snobbish tone, contrary to the company procedure/norms.
“The question/answer sessions, lecturing and advices by the mishap, the captain continued with intervals for about one hour after takeoff. After the intermittent humiliating sessions, the FO generally remained quiet, became under confidence, submissive and subsequently did not challenge the captain for any of his errors, breaches and violations.”
It said the plane had ended up in a dangerous situation due to most unprofessional handling by the captain, adding that since the desired initiative of the FO had been curbed and a communication barrier had already been created by the captain the FO failed to intervene, take over the controls to pull the plane out of danger and display the required CRM skills.
“At 0441:08 hours, the FO was heard the last time saying to the captain ‘Sir we are going down, sir we are going da….’ The high rate of descend at very low altitude could not be arrested and the aircraft flew into the hill and was completely destroyed. All souls on board sustained fatal injuries due to impact force.”
The report said at 0439:58 (70 seconds before the impact), first Enhanced Ground Proximity Warning System (EGPWS) warning of ‘terrain ahead’ started sounding meaning that the EGPWS worked exactly in the manner for which it was designed. It is added that the aircrew ignored several calls by the ATS (Air Traffic Services) controllers and EGPWS system warnings (21 times) related to approaching terrain and pull up.
It further said flight recorders contained the complete flight data and cockpit voice recording for the entire flight duration from the takeoff to the crash.