Monday, January 20, 2014

Air crash investigations: Probe body still running under Civil Aviation Authority control

PESHAWAR:   Despite recommendations of foreign experts, the federal government has failed to make Civil Aviation Authority’s (CAA) Safety Investigation Board (SIB) an independent body.

During a hearing in the 2012 Airblue crash, the federal government had assured the Peshawar High Court (PHC) that the SIB would be made an independent entity and a summary had been sent to the prime minister for this purpose. However, SIB’s status is the same and it continues to be run by officials on deputation, revealed a senior CAA official on condition of anonymity.

“The board was separated from the Ministry of Defence and is now being supervised by the prime minister as the summary proposing its independence has been put into the cold storage,” he said, adding that the Civil Aviation Ordinance 1982 was also a hurdle for the SIB to gain independence and needed amendments.

The official said that the bureaucracy would never give up SIB’s control, adding that unless the organization became independent, air crashes would never be probed in a transparent manner.

Head of the families’ association of the 2010 Airblue crash victims, Junaid Hamid, who lost his wife in the incident, said such investigation bodies were independent of the bureaucratic control across the globe.

On November 9, 2012, investigators of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) completed their probe into the crash which revealed that the incident occurred after the pilot lost control of the aircraft. The ICAO report also termed the CAA investigation report, available on its website, as incomplete and lacking vital information.

The reinvestigation, carried out by ICAO Technical Officer Dr Andre Dekok and Standards and Procedure Officer Thormodur Thormodsson, claimed the SIB was not an independent and impartial organization and could not investigate air crash incidents in a transparent manner. They had recommended that the SIB be turned into an independent entity to avoid misinformation and bureaucratic influences.

“At the ICAO’s headquarters in Montreal a few months back, we advised the ICAO to exert pressure on the Pakistani government to declare the SIB an independent entity,” Hamid said, adding that unless it became an autonomous body, the SIB would not be able to reveal errors of its parent organization (CAA).

Airblue Flight ED202, which had taken off from Karachi on July 28, 2010, crashed into Islamabad’s Margalla Hills, killing all 152 people on board. In October last year, the PHC disposed of the Airblue crash case and declared the flight’s captain and the air traffic control responsible for the incident.

The CAA, when contacted for its version on the story, failed to give a reply till this report was filed.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 20th, 2014.

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