Pakistan Airlines Crash Kills 47 on Board After Engine Fails

Updated on
  • Plane came down near Abbottabad, worst disaster since 2012
  • ATR-42 aircraft made by Airbus, Leonardo-Finmeccanica unit

Pakistan army troops and rescue workers at the site of a plane crash, in a village near the town of Havelian, Pakistan, on Dec. 7, 2016.

Photographer: Aqeel Ahmed/AP Photo

A Pakistan International Airlines Corp. domestic flight carrying 47 people crashed near the northern city of Abbottabad on Wednesday killing everyone on board after the pilot reported an engine failure.

The ATR-42 aircraft came down near the village of Havelian after taking off at 3:30 p.m. local time from the northern town of Chitral, said Amir Mehboob, a spokesman for Pakistan’s Civil Aviation Authority. The flight, which was heading to the nation’s capital of Islamabad, lost contact at 4:14 p.m. and caught fire after the crash, he said by phone.

There were no survivors and the pilot called “May Day” after reporting the engine’s failure, before losing contact with aviation control, Muhammad Azam Saigol, PIA’s chairman, told reporters at Islamabad airport late on Wednesday. The plane’s black box was recovered and there was no human error, he said. Five crew members were aboard other than the 42 passengers on the flight, according to the National Disaster Management Authority. The airline had pegged the toll at 48 on Wednesday.

PIA will hold an inquiry into the crash, Saigol said. The air disaster is the worst in South Asia’s second-largest economy since a Bhoja Air flight came down near Islamabad in April 2012, killing all 127 people on board. About 360 people have lost their lives in airplane accidents in Pakistan since July 2010, according to Aviation Safety Network website.

PIA’s shares fell 2.9 percent to their lowest in three weeks as of 9:31 a.m. in Karachi. The stock has risen 26 percent this year, compared with a 36 percent gain in Pakistan’s benchmark index.

‘Very Unfortunate’

The national carrier “had an excellent safety record before this crash,” Saigol said. “We have always emphasized on flight safety. All I can say now is it is very unfortunate.”

Toulouse, France-based ATR, known for its turboprop aircraft with capacity of 90 seats and less, said in a statement that “the circumstances of the accident are unknown.” Founded in 1981, ATR is owned by Airbus Group SE and Leonardo-Finmeccanica SpA of Italy and has sold more than 1,500 aircraft. The plane that crashed was made in May 2007, according to tracking website Flightradar 24.

State-owned PIA has had a turbulent year after labor unions and staff, who number about 18,000, in February protested plans by the government to sell a 26 percent stake in the airline to private investors.

For a story on attempts to reform Pakistan’s national airline, click here.

Moves by the management attempting to turn around the airline have been hobbled by the frequent labor strife and the company hasn’t made an annual profit in the past decade, while losing market share to Gulf carriers such as Emirates Airline and Etihad Airways PJSC. Losses more than tripled to 27.8 billion rupees ($265.2 million) in 2015 from 2010, director Amir Ali told lawmakers in January.

— With assistance by Richard Weiss, and Ismail Dilawar

(Updates with revised death toll and share price in fifth paragraph.)
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