Air blue Crash Heirs Case Hits Immobile Object

Wednesday, March 6, 2013
By George Hatcher

If you’re wondering about the Airblue 202 case, it has run into the politics of Pakistan. The situation has been piled high with difficulty. Even though I am an optimist and see opportunity in every difficulty, even though I have a great team of attorneys in Pakistan, and a great team here in the states coordinating on this case, there comes a time when we must realize where we stand. Despite our efforts, with the present laws and political situation, helping the families is like patching shattered glass with paste. It has been a very difficult to make things stick. Or to change metaphors, it has been an uphill climb.

The Flight: 28 July 2010, Airbus A321, Air Blue Fight 202, en route from Karachi to Islamabad

146 passengers and 6 crew members flew into a mountain near the airport. Witnesses wondered why it seemed as if “the plane had lost balance, and then we saw it going down.”

Why it was flying so low? Why did it strike the mountain? Audio and a report were released that seemed to answer those question—lack of coordination in the flight crew.

Our study of the audio indicates the pilots are served tea early on, then…

  • Confusion ensues in the cockpit, caused by some unknown reason.
  • Wrong settings introduced into the settings that were already abnormal.
  • A tower operator who had gone for coffee was complacent.
  • Aircraft flew lower than normal.
  • Abnormal personality traits/interaction reflecting mistakes in the cockpit.
  • Weather and apprehension and strange out of norm complacency by the FO when he realizes they are going to die

When the audio was released and studied, it became clear there was no teamwork between the pilot Perve Iqbal Chaudhary and the first officer Muntajib Ahmed.

The pilot had 35 years and more than 25,000 hours of flying experience but made inexplicable mistakes and demeaned the co-pilot. The first officer was aware of the danger and tried to amend the situation but he had been so disheartened beforehand by sharp questions putting the first officer “in his place.”

He was unaccountably meek for a former F-16 Pakistan Air Force fighter pilot. The pilot did not properly respond to Air Traffic Control directives and automated cabin warning systems and flew the plane into a mountain. Air Traffic Control responses were less than professional. The first officer appeared helpless and ineffective.

On January 17,2013, two and a half years after the accident, the Peshawar High Court closed proceedings for the Airblue compensation case.

Counsel was directed to withdraw the client’s petition from the Islamabad High Court or the the Peshawar High Court. The client refused to do so on the basis that the cases were different. The court closed the case because the heirs of the victims had had filed an independent lawsuit at Islamabad High Court.

We believed the Airblue compensation case had merit. The pilot committed the error. The first officer was ineffective. They were Airblue employees.

Yes, there was pilot error, but the airline is doubly responsible, because the flight crew did not have adequate CRM training. (COCKPIT Resource Management/Crew Resource Management) Absolutely what happened in the case was the result of the airline failing to establish a working protocol.

It’s like children at school practicing a fire drill so they know what to do when a crisis occurs. Fire drills save lives. They prevent missteps in the face of danger. They give the people in trouble a set of directions to follow that will get them out of the jam they are in. A drill answers questions ahead of time, so precious time is not wasted figuring out what to do. Without the drill, what happens when disaster strikes? Chaos. Loss of life.

I feel bad for the people. First they lose their families. Then they don’t get all the compensation available to them.

Take a look at the safety recommendations from the report (pasted below).

See how 3.1-3.5 and 3.7 all duplicate the same working environment issue? Investigators recognize the troubled working environment. Today’s flight crews are taught CRM which means they have safe practices in place in case the captain is incapacitated and starts to fly into mountains like the captain of Air Blue 202.

But realistically, will recommendations change AirBlue? Will Air Blue be able to implement non-traditional interpersonal relations on the job? And if they can not, how will they ever fly safely with a first officer culturally unable to do his job?

The first officer was ineffective in securing the plane; and sadly, the court appears to be equally as ineffective in getting justice for some of the heirs of the victims.

Re: Investigation Report -AB-202 CHAPTER – 13 :

SAFETY RECOMMENDATIONS

13.1 All aircrew be re-briefed on CFIT avoidance and Circling Approach procedures
and a strict implementation of this procedure be ensured through an intensive
monitoring system.

13.2 Aircrew scheduling and pairing being a critical subject be preferably handled /
supervised by Flight Operations.

13.3 The implementation of an effective CRM program be ensured and the syllabus of
CRM training be reviewed in line with international standards.

13.4 Existing aircrew training methodology be catered for standardization and
harmonization of procedures.

13.5 Human factor / personality profiling program for aircrew be introduced to predict
their behaviour under crises.

13.6 Instrument landing procedure for RWY-12 be established, if possible.

13.7 Safety Management System be implemented in ATS as per the spirit of the ICAO
document (doc. 4444).

13.8 New Islamabad International Airport (NIIA) be completed and made functional on
priority

13.9 Visual augment system (Approach Radar Scope) be installed in control tower to
monitor the positions and progress of aircraft flying in the circuit.

13.10 Review of the existing Regulations for the compensation and their expeditious
award to the legal heirs of the victims be ensured.

13.11 Adequacy of SIB resources comprising qualified human resource and equipment
be reviewed.

13.12 Information to public on the progress of the investigation process through the
media by trained / qualified investigators of SIB be ensured on regular intervals.

13.13 NDMA be tasked to acquire in-country airlift capability for removal of wreckage
from difficult terrain like Margalla etc. As an interim arrangement, some foreign
sources be earmarked for making such an arrangements on as and when
required basis.

13.14 Civil Police Department be tasked to work out and ensure effective cordoning and
onsite security arrangements of crashed aircraft wreckage at all the places
specially remote / difficult hilly locations.

13.15 Environment Control Department be directed to recover the ill effects of
deterioration / damages caused to Marghalla hill due to the crash.

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