PIA A320 at Karachi on May 22nd 2020, impacted residential area during final approach, both engines failed as result of a gear up touchdown
Last Update: May 21, 2021 / 19:11:37 GMT/Zulu time
Rescue and Recovery
Rescue and recovery services are on crash site. Emergency services were able to put the fires out about 5 hours after the crash.
The airline reported the aircraft carried 90 passengers and 8 crew. So far no information is available whether there are survivors. Saying anything more would be premature. On May 23rd 2020 the airline released a list containing 91 passenger names.
Jinnah Medical Center reported around 12:30Z, that 15 bodies and 8 injured people (unclear whether the injured were occupants of the aircraft or people on the ground) were taken to the center.
Local videos show one of the passengers, a well known chairman of a bank, being pulled out of the wreckage with injuries but in stable condition.
The family of another occupant of the aircraft tweeted their family member was alive but injured having survived the accident.
Pakistan's Civil Aviation Authority have declared emergency for Karachi Airport.
The Health Department of Sindh confirmed two passengers survived the accident. So far 66 bodies have been recovered from the crash site, 5 of them were already identified.
In the morning of May 23rd 2020 Pakistan's Armed Forces (PAF) reported two passengers survived and were rescued, 97 bodies were recovered. 25 houses affected by the impact were cleared and their residents accomodated various places with the assistence of civil administration. Rescue Operations are still in progress.
On May 23rd 2020 Pakistan's Ministry of Health reported two surviving passengers and 97 bodies, 19 of which have been identified already.
On Ma 24th 2020 Pakistan's Ministry of Health reported all 97 bodies have been recovered from the crash site, there had been two survivors amongst the passengers, 4 people on the ground were taken to hospitals with burns. 19 houses, 10 cars and 3 motor cycles were damaged in the accident.
On May 24th 2020 Pakistan's Aviation Minister reported the first phase of rescue and recovery is completed. It is a miracle that no life on the ground was lost. Now the assessment of damage of the affected houses, vehicles and other property on the ground is underway, the federal government will bear the cost for these repairs.
On May 24th 2020 the airline reported all bodies were recovered from the crash site, there had been two survivors amongst the passengers.
On May 24th 2020 Karachi Commissioner leading the commission to assess the property damages stated none of the houses was completey destroyed or damaged, in most cases upper parts of the houses were damaged when the concrete structure was hit by the aircraft. Fortunately the structures mostly remained intact.
On Jun 1st 2020 a Karachi hospital reported a girl (12), who was injured on the ground when the aircraft impacted the buildings, succumbed to her injuries. She had received burns on 59% of her body and had already been critical for the last two days.
The ministry of Health confirmed the girl died in hospital care becoming the first fatality on the ground.
Pakistan's Safety Investigation Board (SIB) have formed a commission to investigate the crash.
On May 23rd 2020 Pakistan's Civil Aviation Authority reported in a press conference that both black boxes (Flight Data Recorder and Cockpit Voice Recorder) have been recovered. The crew of the flight had not indicated any trouble or requested emergency services for their first approach.
On May 23rd 2020 Pakistani media are reporting quoting sources within the Civil Aviation Authority, that the aircraft touched down on the runway with retracted gear during their first approach, climbed again and positioned for another approach. Ground observers reported sparks from the aircraft when it touched the ground. Later in the afternoon/evening local time Pakistani media reported scrape marks were found on the runway indicating that one engine had contacted the runway first, then some distance later the second engine, too, with both engines now scraping over the runway until the aircraft became airborne again.
On May 23rd 2020 Karachi Airport reported based on CAA inspection report that the runway inspection revealed scrape marks of the left engine start 4500 feet down the runway, the right engine scrape marks begin 5500 feet down the runway. About 6000-7000 feet past the runway threshold the scrape marks end.
On May 23rd 2020 the airline's engineering department reported the aircraft had last been checked on Mar 21st 2020 and had flown 8 sectors since, the last sector before the accident flight was on May 21st 2020. The left hand engine had been installed on the airframe on Feb 25th 2019, the right hand engine on Mar 27th 2019. All three landing gear struts were installed on Oct 18th 2014. The aircraft had accumulated 47,124 hours in the 16 years since it was built in 2004.
On May 24th 2020 Pakistan's media quote a CAA official speaking on condition of anonymity that the aircraft made two attempts to land. During the first approach it appears the landing gear was still retracted when the aircraft neared the runway, the pilot had not indicated any anomaly or emergency, emergency services thus did not respond and did not foam the runway as would be done in case of a gear malfunction. The marks on the runway between 4500 feet and 7000 feet down the runway suggest the engines made contact with the runway surface, it is possible that the engines were damaged during that contact with the runway surface leading even to possibly fire.
On May 24th 2020 a spokesman of the airline said, the landing gear had not been (partially or fully) lowered prior to the first touch down. The crew did not call out the standard operating procedures for an anomaly and no emergency was declared. Most likely the crew was not mentally prepared for a belly landing and went around when they realized the engines were scraping the runway.
On May 26th 2020 it became known, the data module of the cockpit voice recorder has not been found so far, only the housing had been recovered. The FDR including data module is about to be taken to Paris for read out by BEA whose investigators arrived in Karachi on May 26th 2020. Authorities are hopeful to find the CVR's data module during removal of the wreckage from the crash site.
On May 26th 2020 a spokesman of the airline reported only the cover of the CVR has been recovered so far. Residents of Model Colony are being urged to hand over any aircraft components found in their houses.
On May 26th 2020 evening the BEA reported their investigators are still on site, the FDR has not yet left Pakistan, the CVR has not been recovered.
On May 28th 2020 the BEA tweeted the CVR data module was recovered today. Pakistan‘s CAA requested the BEA to read out the black boxes.
On May 28th 2020 local sources reported the data module of the CVR was found underneath parts of the wreckage while the wreckage was being removed from the crash site. Pakistan's Aviation Minister announced a preliminary report will be released on Jun 22nd 2020. 51 bodies have been identified so far. The French BEA is going to take FDR and CVR to France for repair, download and analysis.
On May 30th 2020 the BEA announced the work at the crash site is about to be completed, the teams of BEA, Airbus, engine manufacturers Safran and CFM as well as Pakistan's AAIB will subsequently fly to France. Technical work on the black boxes is going to statt on Jun 2nd 2020.
On Jun 1st 2020 the aircraft carrying the investigation teams and the black boxes safely completed the journey from Pakistan to Paris.
On Jun 2nd 2020 the BEA reported both FDR and CVR have been downloaded successfully. Analysis of the data is in progress.
On Jun 5th 2020 the BEA reported download and decoding of both recorders was completed, analysis of the data is ongoing.
On Jun 22nd 2020 Pakistan's AAIB is going to present their preliminary report to Pakistan's Prime Minister and Pakistan's Parliament. No preliminary report has yet been published (and there is no indication or announcement as of current that the preliminary report will be published). One Pakistani Media claims to have seen a leaked copy of the preliminary report and reports, that the crew did not follow procedures and appeared to have been overconfident. The aircraft had not been handed off to tower by approach control during the first approach. The crew should have stopped the aircraft after it touched down with retracted landing gear and should not have gone around. The media claims the preliminary report states the air traffic controller is equally responsible for the crash.
On Jun 24th 2020, while introducing the preliminary report, Pakistan's Aviation Minister stated, that both flight crew and ATC failed to follow procedures, the pilots discussed Coronavirus and were not focussed on their piloting tasks, when ATC advised about altitude the crew replied they would manage it and again discussed Coronavirus. The crew was overconfident and not focussed. The captain's last three words were 'Ya Allah', 'Ya Allah', 'Ya Allah'.
On Jun 24th 2020 the CAA Pakistan released the preliminary report.
The CAA Pakistan described the sequence of events:
On 22 May 2020 at 13:05 hrs PST, the Pakistan International Airlines aircraft Airbus A320-214, registration number AP-BLD, took off from Lahore (Allama Iqbal International Airport – AIIAP) Pakistan to perform a regular commercial passenger flight (PK8303) to Karachi (Jinnah International Airport – JIAP) Pakistan, with 8 crew members (01 Captain, 01 First Officer, and 06 flight attendants) and 91 passengers on board. At 14:35 hrs the aircraft performed an ILS approach for runway 25L and touched down without landing gears, resting on the engines. Both engines scrubbed the runway at high speed. Flight crew initiated a go-around and informed “Karachi Approach” that they intend to make a second approach. About four minutes later, during downwind leg, at an altitude of around 2000 ft, flight crew declared an emergency and stated that both engines had failed. The aircraft started losing altitude. It crashed in a populated area, short of runway 25L by about 1340 meters. An immediate subsequent post impact fire initiated. Out of 99 souls on-board, 97 were fatally injured and 02 passengers survived. On ground 04 persons were injured however 01 out of these reportedly expired later at a hospital.
The crash site is located in a residential area northeast of JIAP. The wreckage lies approximately 1340 m from the runway 25L threshold close to the extended runway centerline. The aircraft parts were spread out over 75 m in a single street, with some parts on the roof tops of adjoining houses. Figure 1 hereunder describes the location of the crash site with reference to the JIAP on a Google Earth image. Figure 2 shows an aerial view of the crash site.
The layout of the aircraft parts on the accident site is consistent with the aircraft impacting buildings on both sides of the street at low speed. The THSA position before the impact was determined to be 2.8 deg nose up. According to the Rudder Travel Limiting Unit, the aircraft speed before impact was below 150 knots IAS. Several findings indicate an extended landing gear configuration at the time of impact. The free fall mechanism for lowering of landing gears was not used. The slat / flap configuration was determined to be in position slat 1 (ie 18 deg), flaps fully retracted (0 deg). The RAT was seen deployed on CCTV screen shots prior impact.
Left engine showed evidence of external fire. Visible fan blades condition was consistent with the engine being at low rotational speed at the time of impact, most likely not producing any thrust. Right engine showed evidence of external fire. Fan blades were in good condition being consistent with the engine at low rotational speed at the impact, most likely not producing any thrust at time of impact.
Transfer gearbox and drain mast reservoir, located at the engine lower part showed marks of friction with hard flat surface, material displacement and loss of material. It was consistent with the CCTV footages showing the lower part of the engine scrubbing the runway during the first landing attempt. The APU air intake flap actuator was not in the “retracted” position, consistent with the APU not being used at the time of impact, ie not supplying electric power and bleed air pressure.
FDR, CVR, EGPWS, QAR, FCDC, and ADIRU were transported to BEA under the personal custody of the investigator in-charge, on a special flight on 01 June 2020. Opening of the FDR and CVR, electrical checks and related technical jobs were undertaken on 02 June 2020 in the presence of investigator in-charge. CVR was damaged during post impact fire; therefore, its connecting cable (ie flex cable) and connector were burnt. It required opening of the protected module and removal of the circuit boards, visual microscopic examination, electric checks and then readout on a “golden chassis”. FDR was in a good state, therefore its opening and readout were comparatively simple. A recording of the entire activity was saved as per the recommended practices. After readout and validation of data, initial discussions and preliminary analysis were undertaken at BEA during 02 to 05 June 2020. Advanced analysis is in progress at BEA, and detailed reports shall be furnished accordingly. Figures hereunder show the CVR and FDR opening and readout process.
The CVR recording was found to be of good quality and covered complete flight. However, FDR included the data of the entire flight except after the time when electric power was not available for the FDR. This is as per its designed limitation.
The preliminary report lists following preliminary findings:
The investigation so far into the available evidences, ie FDR / CVR readouts (preliminary assessment), footages from CCTV / Security Cameras at JIAP, and “Karachi Approach” radar data etc, following has been revealed and validated as the preliminary findings: -
(a) The reported weather at origin, en-route and at destination airfields was fit to undertake the flight.
(b) On 22 May 2020 PIA flight PK8303 took off from AIIAP Lahore at 13:05 hrs (as per the Lahore ATC recording / transcript). Departure from Lahore and cruising flight were uneventful. The crew did not follow standard callouts and did not observe CRM aspects during most parts of flight.
(c) “Area Control Karachi East” cleared PK8303 for “Nawabshah 2A” arrival procedure (STAR - Standard Terminal Arrival Route as published in AIP and JEPPESEN), and advised to expect ILS approach for runway 25L. The flight was later cleared at pilot’s discretion to report direct MAKLI (a waypoint 15 nautical miles at a radial of 075 from Karachi VOR) and descend to FL100, and later re-cleared for FL50. The aircraft changed over to “Karachi Approach” and was cleared to descend down further to 3000 ft, by the time it reaches MAKLI.
(d) The aircraft ended up higher than the required descend profile. At MAKLI the aircraft was at 9780 ft and at about 245 knots IAS. In order to manage the descent and lose the additional height, “OPEN DES” mode was selected via the FCU, both autopilots were disengaged and speed brakes were extended.
(e) “Karachi Approach” inquired “confirm track mile comfortable for descend” and later advised to take an orbit, so that the aircraft can be adjusted on the required descend profile. No orbit was executed and the effort to intercept the glide slope and localizer (of ILS) was continued. The FDR indicated action of lowering of the landing gears at 7221 ft at around 10.5 Nautical Miles from Runway 25L.
(f) “Karachi Approach” advised repeatedly (twice to discontinue the approach and once cautioned) about excessive height. Landing approach was not discontinued. However, FDR shows action of raising of the landing gears at 1740 ft followed by retraction of the speed brakes (at a distance slightly less than 05 nautical miles from the runway 25L). At this time, the aircraft had intercepted the localizer as well as the glide slope. Flaps 1 were selected at 243 knots IAS, the landing gears and speed brakes were retracted. Over-speed and EGPWS warnings were then triggered.
(g) Figure hereunder depicts a few parameters of FDR data and the first approach profile of the aircraft in comparison with the required approach profile.
Note : For the descent path, the altitude has been shifted to start from 84 ft in order to match the altitude of the runway at ground impact.
(h) Since the approach to land was continued, “Karachi Approach” instead of changing over the aircraft to “Aerodrome Control”, sought telephonic landing clearance from the “Aerodrome Control”. The “Aerodrome Control” conveyed a landing clearance of the aircraft (without observing the abnormality that the landing gears were not extended) to “Karachi Approach”. Subsequently “Karachi Approach” cleared the aircraft to land.
(i) At 500 ft, the FDR indicates: landing gear retracted, slat/flap configuration 3, airspeed 220 knots IAS, descent rate 2000 ft/min. According to the FDR and CVR recordings several warnings and alerts such as over-speed, landing gear not down and ground proximity alerts were disregarded. The landing was undertaken with landing gears retracted. The aircraft touched the runway surface on its engines. Flight crew applied reverse engine power and initiated a braking action. Both engines scrubbed the runway at various locations causing damage to both of them. Figures hereunder show selected screenshots of security / CCTV cameras footages of the aircraft engines touching the runway and showing sparks due to scrubbing, along with marks on the runway.
(j) The “Aerodrome Control” observed the scrubbing of engines with the runway but did not covey this abnormality to the aircraft. It was conveyed to the “Karachi Approach” on telephone. Subsequently “Karachi Approach” also did not relay this abnormality to the aircraft.
(k) The landing was discontinued and a go-around was executed. FDR recording indicates a brief action of selection of landing gear lever to down position, which was immediately followed by its movement to up position. Intention to undertake another ILS approach for landing on runway 25L was conveyed, however shortly after the go-around both engines failed one by one. Ram Air Turbine (RAT) was deployed to power the essential systems. FDR data recording stopped during this timeframe (as per the designed limitation). The aircraft was unable to maintain required height. The aircrew declared the emergency situation that both engines were lost, and transmitted a “Mayday Call”. Evidences from the wreckage indicate reasons for right engine failure, however left engine requires further examination, and landing gear in extended position did not demonstrate any malfunction of the landing gear system.
(l) The aircraft crashed about 1340 meters short from runway 25L. It was a slow speed impact with high angle of attack, with aircraft configuration indicating landing gears extended, slats at step / position 1, and flaps retracted. The said configuration was ascertained and documented from the wreckage at the crash site (as the FDR data recording had stopped earlier).
(m) The aircraft was reportedly serviceable for the said flight; necessary scrutiny of the aircraft maintenance records / documents is under way. Captain and First Officer were adequately qualified and experienced to undertake the said flight; necessary scrutiny of the aircrew records / documents is under way.
The preliminary report also mentions:
The aircraft remained on ground for 46 days (from 22 March to 06 May 2020) during Covid 19 quarantine, due to restrictions on flying operations. Scrutiny of the maintenance records before the release of the aircraft for normal flying is under process by AAIB, to evaluate the adequacy of the maintenance actions.
On May 21st 2021 Pakistan's CAA released an interim statement stating the investigation is still on-going with following planned activities: "AAIB has planned supplementary field visits, and continues to exchange information / data, teleconferences and emails with all stakeholders to evaluate all possible aspects related to the accident. Additionally flight simulation session(s) at Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) facility is being considered in coordination with ACCREPs (subject to COVID-19 traveling restrictions) to evaluate the crew actions."
A ground observer reported the aircraft suddenly became silent in its final seconds of flight.
Pakistan's Planespotters report, the aircraft "attempted a belly landing", went around and subsequently crashed. Their photos of the last moments of the aircraft in flight show scrape marks on both engines and the RAT deployed.
On May 23rd 2020 one of the surviving passengers reported in a first televised interview, that the aircraft had touched down on first approach and went around. The other surviving passenger reported the aircraft shuddered just before impact.
On May 23rd 2020 there are claims, not suported by ATC recordings, that the aircraft suffered a landing gear failure on first approach but continued the approach for a low approach. While going around near the end of the runway the aircraft received bird strikes resulting in first reduction of engine power and subsequent loss of engine power.
On May 24th 2020 Pakistan's Dunya TV Station aired a video of a runway inspection of runway 25L, driving in westerly direction of runway 25L, showing the scrape marks, also see the original video below (that became available some time later). A few screenshot of that coverage produced by HistoryOfPIA below.
The aircraft was scheduled to land at 14:45L (09:45Z).
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OPKC 220755Z 22012KT 7000 NSC 36/24 Q1005 NOSIG=
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OPKC 220655Z 22011KT 7000 NSC 35/24 Q1006 NOSIG=
This article is published under license from Avherald.com. © of text by Avherald.com.
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