Pilots of crashed PIA Airbus could have become rusty due to lockdown, safety chief says

People stand on a roof of a house amidst debris of a passenger plane, crashed in a residential area near an airport in Karachi, Pakistan on Friday. Photo | Reuters via ANI
People stand on a roof of a house amidst debris of a PIA passenger plane, crashed in a residential area near an airport in Karachi, Pakistan on 22 May. | Reuters via ANI

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Bloomberg- Europe’s top aviation-safety official said that pilot rustiness following global groundings at the height of the coronavirus crisis may have been a factor in the fatal crash of a Pakistan International Airlines plane.

It’s reasonable to ask whether the tragedy of the Airbus SE A320 jetliner that hit a suburb of Karachi in May, killing all but two of the 99 people on board, would have happened without the Covid-19 pandemic, European Union Aviation Safety Agency Executive Director Patrick Ky said Tuesday.

“The pilots did not seem to be as fluent in the way they were conducting their flights as they should have,” Ky said in a media briefing arranged by the A4E association of European airlines. “If you haven’t flown for three months, six months, you need to be retrained in some way in order to come back.”

Flight PK8303 initially touched down without deploying its landing gear, damaging the engines, which failed during a second landing attempt. That led the jet to crash short of the airport. The pilots were distracted by a conversation about the virus, according to initial information on the event.

Planes themselves also need extra attention to ensure that they’re airworthy after standing idle for a length of time, according to Ky.

“From a safety perspective, we were concerned with the return to operations,” he said. “An Aircraft is not like a washing machine. You need to perform a certain number of tasks in order to ensure it is safe.”

With PIA barred by EASA from flying into Europe until the end of the year at least as a result of the crash and subsequent findings, British Airways will add flights to Pakistan with a four-times weekly service to Lahore, according to a U.K. government statement Tuesday.

The move comes after Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd. said last month it would serve Pakistan for the first time, with flights made viable by PIA’s exit and demand fueled by the number of people of Pakistani origin living in the U.K.

Also read: Fatal crash, fake pilots, piling losses expose how broken Pakistan’s PIA is


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