AN aircraft crashed after its pilots forgot to put the wheels down before landing, a report has found.
Video shows sparks spewing out from under the Airbus A320 as it skidded along the runway at Karachi airport following the blunder by the crew, who were distracted talking about the coronavirus.
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The plane managed to get airborne again but ploughed into a residential area killing a total of 97 people in the May 22 disaster.
A preliminary investigation by the authorities in Pakistan has found the pilots attempted to lower the landing-gear during their first approach to Karachi.
But they raised the gear lever again during the descent during the flight from Lahore, Flight Global reports.
“The landing was undertaken with landing-gears retracted. The aircraft touched the runway surface on its engines,” the inquiry found.
In the wake of the crash Pakistan’s aviation minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan said that "human error" on the part of the pilot and co-pilot as well as air traffic control caused the plane crash.
"The pilot and co-pilot were not focused and throughout they were having a conversation about corona.
"The [virus] was on their minds. Their families were affected and they were having a discussion about it".
Civil Aviation Authority of Pakistan report catalogues a series of blunders made by the crew.
Data from the flight recorders shows that the landing gear was selected as “down” during part of the plane's descent.
But later when the plane was much nearer to the ground the landing gear lever was selected as “up”.
The reasons for this ‘gear up’ selection have not been determined cockpit-voice recordings reveal warnings that the landing-gear was not down were “disregarded”, says the inquiry.
Air traffic controllers also failed to notice the wheels weren’t down.
When the crew realised what had happened the pilots initially applied reverse-thrust and braking, as the engines scraped along the runway.
They were unable to halt the plane so perform a ‘go around’ and take off as they belatedly put the landing gear down.
The A320 initially climbed away, with its crew planning to make another approach but engines “failed one by one”, says the inquiry.
The aircraft came down in a built-up area about 1,340m from the runway threshold.
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