MIAMI – Today the Pakistani Aircraft Accident Investigation Board released its preliminary report into the Pakistan International Airlines (PK) accident in May. The aircraft, PK flight PK8303 crashed on May 22, 2020 near Karachi Airport.

In accordance with ICAO Annex 13 reporting, this preliminary document is meant to present the facts that have been gathered so far as well as the first findings.

Very little or no analysis is expected at this point in the investigation.

The site of the incident

The Airbus A320-214, MSN 2274, Registration AP-BLD, crashed off the end of Jinnah International Airport’s (KHI) runway 25L in a residential area. The majority of aircraft parts were located in a 75m stretch of a street, with further parts found on the roofs of nearby houses.

The investigators state that the wreckage pattern is consistant with a low speed crash, below 150 knots IAS, and with a 2.8 deg nose up attitude. The landing gear was extended through normal means, and the Ram Air Turbine was extended.

Both engines showed evidence of external fire, and low rotation at the time of impact. The low rotation means that the engines were most likely not working at the time of the accident. The were also evidence of damage to the bottoms of the engines, and parts of the engines and pylons were found on runway 25L.

Pakistan International Airlines Airbus_A320-214 AP-BLD.

The Black Box

Both Data Recorders were recovered from the crash site. The Flight Data Recorder (FDR) had minimal damage and was able to be downloaded without issue.

The Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR) was damaged, but the lab at the BEA in France was able to download all the data.

The flight, up until the landing was uneventful, and the weather was ok for flight. The Investigators do note that standard Cockpit Resource Management techniques and callouts were not used.

Karichi approach

On approach to Karachi, the flight was told to expect a ILS approach to runway 25L. There were several hight clearances given, with the final one being 3000 ft at MAKLI, a waypoint 15 nm from the airport.

When flight PK8303 arrived at MAKLI, they were at 9780 ft and 245 knots IAS. The Flight Crew extended speed breaks and disengaged the autopilot in an attempt to intercept the glideslope. “Karachi Approach” advised taking an orbit to be able to comfortably lose speed and altitude.

At 7221 ft and 10.5 nm from the runway the gear was lowered.

“Karachi Approach” also advised the Flight Crew multiple times to discontinue the approach. The reason given was excessive height.

PIA Pakistan Airlines flight PK8303 – Photo: Aviation Accidents Database.

Landing attempt regardless of warnings

As the Flight Crew ignored the advice, the aircraft intercepted the ILS localizer and glideslope.

At 1740ft, the gear was raised and the speed breaks retracted. Flaps 1 were selected. With the new configuration at 243 kts, the over-speed warning went off as well as the EGPWS.

Instead of having PK8303 switch to the “Aerodrome Control” from “Karachi Approach,” “Karachi Approach” used the telephone to call “Aerodrome Control” for landing clearance for PK8303.

With clearance in hand, PK8303 continued. The configuration of the aircraft at 500 ft was: descent rate 2000 ft/min, 200 knots, IAS, slats/flaps 3, and landing gear retracted.

Multiple cockpit warnings went off with this aircraft configuration for landing. The Crew did not respond.

The aircraft landed with the gear up, touching down on the engines. The crew applied reverse thrust and braking. Then landing was then discontinued, and a go-around was started. The gear handle was moved from “up” to “down” and back to “up.”

Crash site in residential area. Photo: The Hindu.

The crash

After taking off again, both engines lost power, the Ram Air Turbine was deployed. The aircraft crashed 1340 m short of runway 25L.

There is a lack of Flight Data for the go around due to the the fact that the RAT does not supply power to the FDR. This is per design.

There were 99 passengers and Crew on board. 97 perished in the accident, 4 people on the ground were hurt, and reportdely one died.

Jinnah International Airport, Karachi.

Next Steps in the investigation

The AAIB Pakistan plans to conduct more advanced analysis on the FDR, CVR, engines, aircraft and other documentation related to the aircraft. All information reported in the preliminary report will be looked at in detail.

As well, the information gathered from Air Traffic and the Airline about the Crew will be analysed. Comparison of information to ICAO standards and recomendations will be checked.

Finally, the possible effects of Covid-19 on this accident will also be explored. The aircraft was AOG for 46 days before this flight.