Air Safety

May Day! May Day!

The string of PIA accidents calls the airline’s safety record
into question. It is time for civil aviation authorities in
Pakistan to take more stringent measures.

By Asma Nisar | July 2020

On 22 May 2020, Pakistan International Airlines Flight 8303, a scheduled domestic flight, left Allama Iqbal International Airport in Lahore for Jinnah International Airport in Karachi. Once near the Karachi Airport, the A320 ran into problems and crashed in Model Colony, a populated residential area a few kilometers from the runway. This was its second approach after a failed first landing attempt. Of the 91 passengers and eight crew on board, 97 were killed, while two passengers survived with injuries. Eight people on the ground were also injured. One of them died later.

The flight was piloted by Captain Sajjad Gul and first officer Usman Azam. It took off from Lahore shortly after 1:00 p.m. and was near the end of its 90-minute journey when it crashed at around 2:45 p.m. in the Karachi neighbourhood at around 3 kilometers (1.9 miles) from the airport. The aircraft's wings were reported as being on fire in the moments before the plane crashed into rooftops.

The pilot had made an initial aborted landing attempt. He later radioed air traffic control, reporting landing gear issues and the failure of both engines. The ATC confirmed to the pilot that he was cleared to use either of the airport's two runways.

According to PIA's CEO, Air Marshal Arshad Malik, a technical fault prompted the pilot to make a go-around rather than land, even though both runways were available to him. The pilot told the controller, "We are returning back, sir, we have lost engines." Twelve seconds later, he declared a mayday emergency, which was the final communication with the aircraft.

According to officials from Pakistan's Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), complications had arisen during the aircraft's first descent. The landing gear was still in the retracted position when the aircraft attempted its first landing. Friction marks on the runway suggested there had been some ground contact; at the runway's 1,400-metre (4,500 ft) mark, the plane's left engine is believed to have scraped the runway, while at the 1,700-metre (5,500 ft) mark, the right engine made contact.

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The writer is an Islamabad-based freelancer and a socio-economic analyst. She can be reached at

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