Investigators said there was no technical issue with the plane, and the government blamed the pilots.(Reuters)
Investigators said there was no technical issue with the plane, and the government blamed the pilots.(Reuters)

Timeline to disaster: The last moments PIA’s Flight 8303

CCTV images released with the report showed sparks flying across the runway as the engines scraped the ground.
Islamabad, Pakistan | By Agence France-Presse | Posted by: Shivani Kumar
UPDATED ON JUN 24, 2020 09:31 PM IST

An initial report into the crash of Pakistan International Airlines Flight 8303 has outlined a devastating series of events before the plane plunged into a crowded Karachi neighbourhood, killing 97 people aboard and a child on the ground.

Here is a look at what led to the disaster:

Also read: Pilots on Pak plane that crashed were ‘discussing coronavirus during landing’

Uneventful at first

The skies were clear and conditions ideal when the aircraft left Lahore at 1:05 pm on May 22, with the accident report calling the plane’s departure and cruising flight “uneventful”.

But as the flight approached Karachi, things went awry.

The aircraft was too high as it neared Jinnah International Airport, leading pilots to disengage the autopilot and take manual control.

The tower repeatedly tried to intervene -- calling on the pilots to abort their approach due to the plane’s excess altitude -- but the pilots attempted to land anyway.

Inexplicably, at 1,740 feet (530 metres), they raised the landing gear and also deactivated speed brakes, while ignoring a series of alarms in the cockpit.

Engines scraped tarmac

The pilots attempted to touch down without the plane’s landing gear extended, scraping the aircraft’s engines across the tarmac, and “initiated a braking action” before abruptly aborting the landing attempt, the report said.

CCTV images released with the report showed sparks flying across the runway as the engines scraped the ground.

The tower failed to communicate this information to the flight crew or alert emergency services to the problem.

The pilots tried to circle back for a second attempt, but the engines -- badly damaged -- lost power, and the pilots issued a “mayday” call.

‘Overconfident pilots’

The plane then plunged into a nearby residential area and exploded on impact, killing all but two people aboard and a girl on the ground.

Investigators said there was no technical issue with the plane, and the government blamed the pilots.

Pakistan’s aviation minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan lambasted the crew, saying the pilots were chatting about the coronavirus epidemic rather than following standard flight protocols.

He said they were “overconfident”.

The country’s deadliest aviation accident in eight years came just days after flights resumed following weeks of inaction due to the virus.

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