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Badly-trained crew blamed for 2012 Pakistan air crash

06 February, 2014

KARACHI: The pilots of a Pakistani jetliner that plunged to the ground outside Islamabad in 2012 and killed 127 people were not trained to use its automated flight deck, investigators have found.

The Bhoja Air Boeing 737 from Karachi crashed in fields and burst into flames as it came in to land at the capital's Benazir Bhutto International airport during a storm in April 2012. There were no survivors. In its official report Pakistan's Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) blamed the crew and Bhoja management for the crash, the second deadliest in the country's history. The captain and his co-pilot had been trained to fly the Boeing 737-200 but not the more advanced 737-236 model which crashed, the CAA report said.

The newer model was equipped with an automated flight deck which the crew had not been trained to use, the report said. "The information with regards to automation capacities of aircraft was not in the knowledge of cockpit crew even after the formal ground schooling, as the ground schooling did not cater for the automation of aircraft," said the report, parts of which were seen by AFP. In their concluding remarks the investigators said that "ineffective management of the basic flight parameters" such as air speed and rate of descent were among the main causes of the tragedy.

The eight-member investigation team was headed by an air commodore and included engineers, commercial and air force pilots, doctors and aviators. Discussing the black-box recording of the cockpit conversation and air traffic control tower, the team observed that panic gripped the pilot in the severe weather conditions. The captain was heard suddenly remarking that it had become dark, but he did not take any action to discontinue the approach. He appeared not to trust the plane's automatic technology and at one point seemed confused that the plane was travelling at 220 knots instead of 190.

The crash was Islamabad's second in less than two years, after an Airblue plane hit the Margalla Hills in July 2010 while coming in to land in bad weather, killing 152 Pakistan's deadliest air accident. Parts of the Bhoja Air plane's fuselage dragged across the ground for several kilometres in the crash and many of the bodies were charred beyond recognition. No one from the airline, which had its operations suspended by the CAA soon after the crash, was available for comment.

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