Plane carrying 98 crashes into crowded Karachi neighborhood

By Adil Jawad | Associated Press

KARACHI, Pakistan — A jetliner carrying 98 people crashed
Friday in a crowded neighborhood near the airport in Pakistan’s
port city of Karachi after an apparent engine failure during
landing. Officials said there were at least two survivors from the
plane, and it was unknown how many people on the ground were hurt,
with at least five houses destroyed.

The pilot of Pakistani International Airlines Flight 8303 was
heard transmitting a mayday to the tower shortly before the crash
of the Airbus A320, which was flying from Lahore to Karachi and
carrying many traveling for the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr.
Video on social media appeared to show the jet flying low with
flames shooting from one of its engines.

The plane crashed about 2:39 p.m. in a narrow alley in the poor
and congested residential area known as Model Colony between houses
smashed by its wings. Police in protective masks struggled to clear
away crowds amid the smoke and dust so ambulances and firetrucks
could reach the crash site.

As darkness fell, crews worked under floodlights, and a portable
morgue was set up. At least 57 bodies were recovered, health
department officials said, and PIA chairman Arshad Malik said
finding all the dead could take two to three days.

Pakistan’s civil aviation authority said the plane had 91
passengers and a crew of seven. The A320 can carry up to 180
passengers, depending on how its cabin is configured.

At least two people aboard survived, according to the Sindh
provincial health department, revising an earlier statement that
three were alive.

Local TV stations showed video of a man on a stretcher they
identified as Zafar Masood, the head of the Bank of Punjab. Malik
later confirmed that Masood survived the crash.

At least three people on the ground were injured.

Malik announced an investigation into the crash, adding that the
aircraft was in good working order.

Pakistan had resumed domestic flights earlier this week ahead of
Eid-al Fitr, which marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan.
Pakistan has been in a countrywide lockdown since mid-March because
of the coronavirus, and the airline has been using social
distancing guidelines on its flights by leaving every other seat
vacant.

Southern Sindh province, of which Karachi is the capital, is the
epicenter of the virus infections in Pakistan. The province has
nearly 20,000 of the country’s more than 50,000 cases.

A transmission of the pilot’s final exchange with air traffic
control, posted on the website LiveATC.net, indicated he had failed
to land and was circling to make another attempt.

“We are proceeding direct, sir — we have lost engine,” a
pilot said.

“Confirm your attempt on belly,” the air traffic controller
said, offering a runway.

“Sir, mayday, mayday, mayday, mayday Pakistan 8303,” the
pilot said before the transmission ended.

In one of the radio communications, at least one exchange from
the flight sounded like a warning alarm was sounding in the
cockpit.

A resident, Abdul Rahman, said he saw the jet circle at least
three times, appearing to try to land before it crashed.

Prime Minister Imran Khan tweeted: “Shocked & saddened by
the PIA crash… Immediate inquiry will be instituted. Prayers
& condolences go to families of the deceased.”

Science Minister Fawad Ahmed Chaudhry said this year has been a
“catastrophe — just survival is so difficult,” with the
pandemic and now the tragedy of the plane crash.

Most of the passengers were heading home to celebrate Eid-al
Fitr, he said.

“What is most unfortunate and sad is whole families have died,
whole families who were travelling together for the Eid holiday,”
he said in a telephone interview in the capital of Islamabad.
The flight from the northeastern city of Lahore typically lasts
about an hour and a half.

Airworthiness documents showed the plane last received a
government check on Nov. 1, 2019. PIA’s chief engineer signed a
separate certificate April 28 saying all maintenance had been
conducted. It said “the aircraft is fully airworthy and meets all
the safety” standards.

Ownership records for the Airbus A320 showed China Eastern
Airlines flew the plane from 2004 until 2014. The plane then
entered PIA’s fleet, leased from GE Capital Aviation
Services.
Perry Bradley, a spokesman for GE, said the firm was “aware of
reports of the accident and is closely monitoring the
situation.”

Airbus said the plane had logged 47,100 flight hours and 25,860
flights as of Friday. The plane had two CFM56-5B4 engines.

Airbus said it would provide technical assistance to
investigators in France and Pakistan, as well as the airline and
engine manufacturers.

“We at Airbus are deeply saddened by the tragic news of flight
#PK8303,” tweeted Executive Director Guillaume Faury. “My
thoughts and those of my Airbus colleagues, go to the families and
loved ones affected. In aviation, we all work hard to prevent this.
Airbus will provide full assistance to the investigating
authorities.”

Associated Press writers Jon Gambrell in Dubai, United Arab
Emirates; Kathy Gannon and Munir Ahmed in Islamabad, and Asim
Tanveer in Multan, Pakistan, contributed to this report.

Source: FS – All – Interesting – News 2
Plane carrying 98 crashes into crowded Karachi
neighborhood