Pilots in Pakistan air crash distracted by coronavirus worry, minister says

By Asif Shahzad
ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - The pilots of a Pakistani airliner that crashed last month and killed 97 people were distracted and concerned as they talked about the coronavirus pandemic while preparing for a first failed landing offer, the aviation minister said Landes on Wednesday.
The national airline Pakistan International Airlines' Airbus A320 <AIR.PA> crashed on May 22 in the southern city of Karachi and killed all but two on board when it landed a kilometer before the runway on the second attempt.
The aircraft had landed on its engines on the first attempt before taking off again. Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan told Parliament this when he presented a first report on the disaster.
The flight data recorder showed that the landing gear was lowered to 10 nautical miles, Khan said, but was then raised 5 nautical miles from the runway, which he described as "incomprehensible".
The plane was "100 percent airworthy" and there was no technical error, he said, but added that the pilots were not "focused" because of the pandemic.
"The whole discussion was about corona," Khan said, referring to the pilot-copilot exchange he had heard on the cockpit voice recorder.
"Corona dominated her mind. Her family was affected (by the virus)."
The pilot's conversation about the virus was not set out in the report reviewed by Reuters, but no established protocols were followed.
"Several warnings and warnings such as overspeed, under-extended landing gear and ground level warnings were ignored," he added. "The landing was carried out with the landing gear retracted. The plane touched the runway surface of its engines."
Both the pilots and air traffic control officials had failed to follow the established procedures, Khan said.
"The captain and the co-pilot were experienced and medically fit," said the minister.
Khan added that the data showed that flight PK8303 from the eastern city of Lahore was only 2,200 m (7,220 feet) high when it was 16 km from the runway, although it was 762 m (2,500 feet) should have been.
Air traffic control made the pilot aware of the irregularity and advised against landing instead of calling for a runaway, Khan said.
"When they were in landing position, the controllers warned them, but he said, 'I'll make it' ... and then they started discussing corona again."
He said the investigation report found that the pilot had not mentioned any technical error during the final approach.
"The pilot's last words were: 'Oh god, oh god, oh god,'" added Khan.
Pakistan had 188,926 infections and 3,755 deaths from the virus pandemic, with the number of reported cases increasing sharply in the past month.
Click: https://tmsnrt.rs/3aIRuz7 for an interactive graphical tracking of the global spread of corona virus

(Written by Asif Shahzad; Additional reporting by Gibran Peshimam and Syed Raza Hassan in Karachi, Tim Hepher in Paris and Jamie Freed in Sydney; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

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