Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Bhoja Air Disaster - Who is to be blamed?

Last night was a terrible night - starting from evening till the whole night was a nightmare for the relatives of those 127 who traveled in the ill fated Bhoja Air B4-213 flight from Karachi to Islamabad, Saturday 20 April 2012. The inaugural flight of Bhoja Air, for the airline was shut for the last ten years for many reasons, including financial crisis. 

The word 'inaugural' flight reminded me of the ill fated inaugural flight of the national flag carrier PIA to Cairo which crashed minutes before landing at the Cairo airport in 1964. There were only two survivors, one of them was my name sake Mustafa Jalal. And I immediately prayed for survivors last evening - but that was not to be so this time. 

Getting facts from the TV coverage, I immediately drew a map from Google Earth about the probable crash site that I posted on my news blog Imposing Headlines, as shown above. Though the aircraft fell on a populated area, but it was sparsely populated, that is why the damage on ground was not much except 10 houses destroyed with no human casualties. Had the aircraft crashed on the west / right of the Islamabad Highway, the damage on ground too would have been colossal as the area is thickly populated. 

As I came to know later, the aircraft was reported to have caught fire while still in air and was seen by eye witnesses flying very low as if stalling, before crashing and exploding. Later on TV, I could see blood stained walls of the compound where the aircraft fell, showing how tragically those on board died.

The tragedy of the air crash not withstanding, which was a God sent, but many questions have erupted after the crash that one wonders why escaped form the airline owner and the concerned organizations including the Civil Aviation Authority, responsible to ensure that only air worthy aircraft fly. Herein under are some of these questions:
The ill fated aircraft was of Boeing 737-200 series, which has long been suspended by many airlines of the world being too old.

Even the aircraft in question was purchased from Shaheen Airlines, which had grounded it after use and was not using it being too old.

As per rules of CAA, any airlines which wishes o be a given a license to operate must have three aircraft on its inventory with a one on standby. Bhoja had only one aircraft that crashed and one was standby in Dubai, as reported by the media.

At the time of landing of the ill fated flight, Islamabad was under severe weather conditions and a very fast wind was blowing that immediately followed heavy rain. Already a few flights had been diverted - then why wasn't this one?
When an Air Blue aircraft crashed awhile ago, under similar weather conditions, it was hoped that the black box recordings will unearth the probable cause of the crash. But these have not been done so far. Yesterday, a minister told the reporters that they should wait for the black box findings to know what really happened. Would we really get to know that?

When the air crash took place, the Islamabad Express Highway and all roads leading to it were jam packed and it was with lot of difficulty that the ambulances and the rescue teams reached the crash site. Even these teams were ill equipped to operate at night as some rescue workers reported that they worked in the light of their cellular phones. This leaves much to be said how ill equipped our rescue missions are and it was the sheer hard work of the workers that the parts of the dead bodies were found and wrapped in sheets arranged from local villagers since the teams did not have anything to wrap the dead.

Inquiries would follow, as it was flashed on TV screens that so and so has ordered inquiry, yet there was someone else who ordered inquiry and then yet again someone who ordered an inquiry. Isn't it normal to appoint an inquiry commission, rather than a half of dozen? Perhaps to show concern, every one who matters orders an inquiry so that his name is reported on media and then he can go and relax - since the inquiries later never get finalized nor apportionate blame on anyone. And so would it be in this case.

Let these passengers that died in either the Air Blue or Bhoja Air crash not go waste and let there be resolve form all of us that those responsible for such crashes be taken to task for the safety of passengers - let there mo no more mourners due to human negligence in future.