This article documents a recent plane crash. Information may change rapidly as the event progresses, and initial news reports may be unreliable. The latest updates to this article may not reflect the most current information. (May 2020) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
AP-BLD, the aircraft involved in the accident, in 2016
|Date||22 May 2020|
|Summary||Aircraft crashed on final approach; cause under investigation|
|Site||Model Colony, near Jinnah International Airport, Karachi, Pakistan |
|Total injuries||At least 10 (2 onboard, 8 on ground)|
|Aircraft type||Airbus A320-214|
|Operator||Pakistan International Airlines|
|IATA flight No.||PK8303|
|ICAO flight No.||PIA8303|
|Call sign||Pakistan 8303|
|Flight origin||Allama Iqbal International Airport, Lahore, Pakistan|
|Destination||Jinnah International Airport, Karachi, Pakistan|
Pakistan International Airlines Flight 8303 was a scheduled domestic flight from Allama Iqbal International Airport in Lahore to Jinnah International Airport in Karachi, Pakistan. On 22 May 2020, the Airbus A320 crashed in Model Colony, a densely populated residential area of Karachi, while on final approach to Jinnah International Airport, a few kilometers away from the runway. There were 91 passengers and eight crew members on board the aircraft. 97 people were killed in the crash; two onboard survivors were rescued.
The aircraft was an Airbus A320-214, which was built in 2004 and owned by GE Capital Aviation Services. It took its maiden flight on 17 August 2004 and was leased to China Eastern Airlines as B-6017 between September 2004 and June 2014. It was then leased to Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) by GE Capital Aviation Services on 31 October 2014, with registration AP-BLD. It was powered by CFM56-5B4/P engines, which were most recently installed in February and May 2019. The landing gear was installed in October 2014 and was next due for servicing and replacement in October 2024. The PIA's engineering department reported that the last routine maintenance check on the plane was conducted on 21 March 2020, while the most comprehensive check was last performed on 19 October 2019, during which no defects were found in its engines, landing gear or avionics. From 22 March to 7 May 2020, the plane had remained grounded owing to flight cancellations amid the global COVID-19 pandemic. From 7 May onward, the plane had conducted six flights. The Civil Aviation Authority had declared the aircraft fit for flight until 5 November. The plane had operated a flight from Muscat to Lahore on the day prior to the accident. According to Airbus, the aircraft had logged 47,124 flight hours.
The flight, piloted by Captain Sajjad Gul and first officer Usman Azam, took off from Lahore shortly after 1:00 p.m. and was near the end of its 90-minute journey, when it crashed at around 2:45 p.m. local time (09:45 UTC) over the "heavily congested" neighbourhood of Model Colony around 3 kilometres (1.9 miles) from the Karachi airport. The aircraft's wings were reported as being on fire in the moments before the plane crashed into rooftops. The crash damaged buildings in the area, some of which caught fire. The crash was captured on video by a CCTV camera.
The pilot had made an aborted landing attempt onto the airport runway before he encountered a technical issue. He radioed air traffic control (ATC) to report the technical problems—an engine failure or landing gear problems. Shortly before contact was lost, ATC told the pilot that he was cleared to use either of the airport's two runways, requesting "Confirm your attempt on belly". According to PIA's CEO, Arshad Malik, the technical fault prompted the pilot to make a go-around rather than land, even though both runways were available to him. The pilot told the controller, "we are returning back, sir, we have lost engines". Twelve seconds later, he issued a mayday alert, which was the final communication between the control room and the aircraft.
According to officials from Pakistan's Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), complications had arisen from the aircraft's first attempt at descent, starting with the landing gear failing to engage. The gear was still in the retracted position when the aircraft attempted its first landing. Friction marks on the runway suggested there had been some ground contact; at the runway's 1,400 metres (4,500 ft) mark, the plane's left engine is believed to have scraped the runway, while at the 1,700 metres (5,500 ft) mark, the right engine made contact. When the pilot ascended to go-around and make the second landing attempt, it is believed damage had already been caused to the engines from this contact, leading to engine failure mid-air. This in turn made it impossible for the aircraft to maintain altitude, causing it to crash when it was returning for the second landing. Observers noted that during the ill-fated second landing, the plane's backup ram air turbine appeared to be engaged, whose purpose is to supply electricity to the plane's control systems when both engines have failed.
The narrow streets and alleys comprising the area inhibited the rescue services. ISPR, the Pakistani military's media wing, reported that special forces of the Pakistan Army and Pakistan Rangers had set up a cordon. Video footage of the crash scene showed emergency teams trying to reach the scene amid rubble, clouds of black smoke and flames in the background.
Residents said it is not uncommon for aircraft on final approach to pass so close to building rooftops that they "feel [ . . . ] we can touch it", given the proximity of the runways. Edhi Foundation's Faisal Edhi said at least 25 houses suffered damages due to the crash. PIA's spokesman Abdullah Hafiz Khan has said that 18 houses were destroyed or badly damaged. According to a witness statement collected by Reuters, the aeroplane crashed after hitting a mobile tower in the vicinity of the airport.
Pakistan International Airlines released details of the flight manifest which shows 91 passengers (51 men, 31 women, and 9 children). The death toll was confirmed as 97, with no one on the ground thought to be killed. One of the passengers was an American citizen. The model and actress Zara Abid was one of the flight's passengers. Five officers from the Pakistan Army and one from the Pakistan Air Force were also among the victims.
The aircraft was not filled to capacity due the requirements of social distancing imposed by the Civil Aviation Authority due to the COVID-19 pandemic which mandated at least one vacant seat between the passengers.
Meeran Yousaf, spokesman of Sindh Health Department, has said eight residents of the Model Colony were injured in the crash and most victims' corpses had suffered burns. Most of the injured were women and children. Faisal Edhi said 25–30 people were hospitalised, mostly due to burns.
The Sindh Minister of Health and Population Welfare declared a state of emergency for Karachi's hospitals, while Prime Minister Imran Khan ordered all available resources to the crash site, as did the chief of the Pakistan Air Force. Khan also announced an inquiry, while PIA was reported to have shut down its website. The President, Arif Alvi, tweeted condolences "to the families of the deceased". Public figures across Pakistan expressed their sadness and shock at the incident. Many international leaders and celebrities also sent their condolences.
Pakistan had allowed domestic flights to resume, following suspension during the COVID-19 pandemic, six days earlier on 16 May.[note 1] Since the crash occurred during the last days of Ramadan, many people were expected to travel to celebrate Eid al-Fitr with their families. The pandemic had already stretched the healthcare resources of the city and the crash intensified the burned. Consequently, one of the two survivors was moved to a public hospital to the city center instead of the hospitals closer to the crash site.
The government announced a compensation of ₨ 10 lakh (Rs 1 million, or around US$ 6,250) each for the families of those killed, and ₨ 5 lakh (Rs 500,000, or around US$ 3,125) each for the two survivors.
Airbus announced they are providing assistance to the investigation. Following the crash, both the flight data recorder (FDR) and the cockpit voice recorder (CVR) were found and handed over to the inquiry board.