Crashed Pakistan plane hit runway three times on first approach: minister

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – The captain of a Pakistani airliner that crashed last week, killing 97 people on board, approached Karachi airport without announcing he couldn’t open his landing gear and hit the runway three times, a government minister said on Thursday.

Search teams recovered the cockpit voice recorder from the wreckage of the Pakistan International Airlines Airbus A320 that crashed into a residential neighbourhood of Karachi on Friday, a spokesman for the airline said. Two people on board survived.

Flight PK8303, from the eastern city of Lahore, came down less than a mile short of the runway as it was making a second attempt to land.

The flight data recorder has already been found.

Minister for Civil Aviation Ghulam Sarwar Khan told reporters the plane’s engines touched the ground three times on the first attempt at landing.

“The pilot never announced his landing gear wasn’t opening. He haphazardly touched the engines thrice with the ground,” Khan said.

“All marks are present (on the runway). He was not at the proper height… Control tower informed him you aren’t at the required height, lower your altitude,” he said, adding that the pilot replied: “I will manage.”

Khan did not say how he knew the details of the conversation.

Under international aviation rules, French investigators from the BEA – the French air safety investigation authority for civil aviation – have joined the Pakistan-led probe because the 15-year-old Airbus jet was designed in France.

Slideshow (7 Images)

The BEA said its laboratory just outside Paris would examine the two recorders.

The plane’s CFM56 engines are expected to be a focus of the investigation after the pilot reported both had failed shortly after the plane made the initial attempt to land.

The engines were made by CFM International, a joint-venture of France’s Safran and General Electric, and are among the most widely used and reliable in the airline industry.

Writing and Reporting by Asif Shahzad in Islamabad and Tim Hepher in Paris; Additional Reporting by Syed Raza Hassan in Karachi; Editing by Gareth Jones, Robert Birsel, Nick Macfie

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