Crash on Final Approach: Pakistan International Airlines flight 8303
Today (22 May 20202) an Airbus A320-200 operating as domestic flight PK 8303 from Lahore to Karachi crashed on final approach at Karachi, Pakistan. Current reports are that there were between 90 and 99 passengers on board and eight crew. It is not yet known if there are any survivors.
The flight departed Lahore at 13:05 local time for a flight just under two hours. After grounding flights during the pandemic, Pakistan International Airlines had resumed offering limited flights on the 16th of May.
There was no significant weather:
METAR: OPKC 221100Z 23014KT 7000 NSC 35/24 Q1004 NOSIG
TAF: OPKC 220330Z 2206/2312 24010G22KT 6000 NSC BECMG 2219/2221 26010KT 5000 FU SCT025 FM 230400 23010G20KT 6000 NSC
The aircraft crashed into a residential area in Model Colony (a Karachi neighbourhood two miles north-east of the airport) while on final approach to runway 25L. Four or five multi-storey buildings have been reported as damaged and on fire.
If you click on the image above, you’ll see the same image in Google maps; zoom out slightly and you’ll find the airport is easily recognisable.
According to the Aviation Herald (who is generally reliable about sourcing information rather than publishing rumours), the inbound flight had aborted their initial approach on the left hand runway (25L) at Karachi, reporting issues with the extension of the nose landing gear. As they came around parallel to the threshold of runway 25L (left downwind) for the second approach, the flight crew declared an emergency and requested an immediate left turn as they had lost both engines. Tower cleared the aircraft to land on either runway (25 left or right).
The following video shows wreckage from where the aircraft crashed into a residential area and includes disturbing images:
The audio clip posted by liveatc.net has 30 minutes of audio for full context. These radio calls can be heard starting at 09:05.
The following is my transcription but it is hard to make out; corrections welcome.
PK 8303: We are proceeding direct, sir, we have lost engine(s?).
ATC: Confirm you are carrying out belly landing?
PK 8303: [Unintelligible]
ATC: Runway available to land on two five.
PK 8303: Roger
PK 8303: Sir, MAYDAY MAYDAY MAYDAY, Pakistan 8303
ATC: Pakistan 8303, roger Sir. Both runways are available to land.
There were no further radio calls. The Airbus A320 crashed moments later.
This video by Aviation News 24×7 shows the final descent of the aircraft along with those same last interactions with ATC:
One eye-witness claims that the aircraft “suddenly went silent” shortly before impact.
These photographs are said to have been taken after the go-around but before the crash. They show black streaks along the bottom of both engine cowlings. The landing gears are not extended.
Our hearts weep with some terrible news coming out of Karachi today. Here is AP-BLD in it's final moments, attempting a go around after it's first attempt of belly landing. A little smoke can be seen from engines as well.#PlaneSpottersPakistan #avipak #planecrash #karachi pic.twitter.com/eOKiCAeRu7
— Plane Spotters Pakistan (@PlaneSpottersPK) May 22, 2020
One reply to the above tweet points out that RAT has come out, a turbine that automatically deploys in case of power failure in order to generate power for basic avionics.
There are some reports that the aircraft did not manage to abort the landing in time and touched down, scraping the engines, before going around. However, this may simply be people making assumptions based on the report of the landing gear problem and the black streaks showing on the photograph. And more importantly, I could not find any verification that the images in question were actually taken on that same day, let alone after the go-around at Karachi.
EDIT: it’s been pointed out to me that this graph by Flightradar24 strongly implies that the aircraft touched down on that first go-around:
Further images from the crash site are appearing on social media now that the fires are out and as the wreckage is cleared.
— Khurram Ansari (@khurram143) May 22, 2020
It’s hard to imagine a sequence of events that starts with a gear extension issue and ends in a dual flame-out.
There is only one bird in the photograph and the crash took place just five minutes after the go-around, so it is hard to believe that either fuel exhaustion or bird strikes (possible grounds for two engines to fail at the same time) are the cause. Fuel or oil contamination could also have that effect. Another possible reason is a single engine failure and the wrong engine shut down. Right now there isn’t enough information even to make an educated guess.
I’m leaving this open for discussion and am happy for updates in the comments as more information is made available. However, I will moderate any commentary referring to “third world aviation” and/or unsupported assumptions about the pilots’ religion (as yet unknown) as a contributing factor. Let’s try to focus on the specifics and not use stereotypes to support early accusations of pilot error.