One year later, PK-661 crash still shrouded in mystery

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By: Zamir Hussain Laghari

The motives are still unclear as to why authorities are reluctant to make public the findings regarding crash of Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) flight PK-661 that killed all 74 onboard near Havelian.

The tragedy on December 7, 2016 also claimed the life of renowned singer turned Naat Khawan and religious preacher Junaid Jamshed, who was on board the domestic passenger flight from Chitral to Islamabad.

The government is apparently reluctant to make the final inquiry report public, and till it’s not done, the matter will continue to remain shrouded in mystery.

Sources say the final report is likely to be released in April 2018.

In the light of the report, the government has yet to determine the responsibility and punish the culprits if the tragedy is really a human mistake and not a genuine technical fault.

Let’s have a look at what has so far emerged from the findings.

Initial CAA Report

Just two days after the incident, Civil Aviation Authority’s initial report said the ill-fated plane, ATR 42-500, had been flying smoothly at 13,375 feet when its left engine malfunctioned, exploded with a damage to its wing.

The pilot reported the engine failure when the plane started bumping at around 4.12pm. The plane gradually lost 2,000 feet, entered free fall and lost another 1,800 feet in a millisecond. Resultantly; it lost connection with radar communication and disappeared from the screen of the radar. The plane crashed at around 4.13pm.

All this was communicated by CAA Secretary Irfan Elahi to Senate Standing Committee on Rules of Procedures and Privileges.

So far PIA has not released any report on the cause of the crash, but has denied the engine failure.

Black Box Data

Black box of the plane was sent to France to the ATR company for decoding. The transcript analysis of the contents failed to find the real cause of the crash; however, it revealed that both engines of the aircraft were running 100 per cent fine when the plane took off from Chitral.

Also one of the engines was still working when the plane crashed.

The black box data indicated that no effort was made to land the aircraft before the crash was reported.

The ATR Saga

Report said PK-661 flight was damaged structurally. “Since it fell freely, we can say with certainty that the aircraft was not intact and it had lost its shape and failed to glide,” the report says.

The report suggests that the ATR 42-500 is one of the most recent versions of the aircraft. Its first delivery was made in 1995 while the crashed plane was delivered to PIA in May 2007. The aircraft had one instance of an engine failure in 2014. The engine was replaced and since then, it had been operating smoothly.

A few days after the plane crash, the national flag carrier suspended its ATR fleet operation for ‘technical checks’. Five ATR 42 and five ATR 72 aircraft were affected by the order.

New Turn: Intoxication

The investigation took a new turn as the investigators suspected the crew of the flight might have been poisoned or some intoxicating substance was given to them.

To investigate the issue, according to media reports, the investigators decided to exhume the bodies of the pilots and other crew members of the crashed plane.

They directed Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS) authorities to constitute a special medical board in this regard. However, there is no official confirmation of exhumation of bodies. – Samaa

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Story first published: 7th December 2017

Originally Posted on SamaaNews

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