Airblue Flight 202 was a scheduled domestic passenger flight which
crashed on 28 July 2010 near Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan,
killing all 146 passengers and six crew on board. It is the
deadliest air accident to occur in
Pakistan to date. The
Airbus A321-231 narrow-body jet
airliner, crashed in the
Margalla Hills north of
Islamabad during a
flight from Karachi's
Jinnah International Airport
Jinnah International Airport to Benazir Bhutto
International Airport. Air traffic controllers lost contact with
the flight crew during its attempt to land in dense fog and heavy
The accident was the first fatal crash involving an
Airbus A321, a
long variant of the
Airbus A320 family
Airbus A320 family of short to medium range
airliners. Based in Islamabad,
Airblue is Pakistan's second largest
airline, with over 30% share of the domestic market. At the time of
the accident the airline operated seven aircraft, all in the A320
3 Passengers and crew
3.1 Nationalities of passengers
4 Rescue attempts
6.1 Sequence of events leading to the crash
7 See also
10 External links
The aircraft involved in the accident while still in operation with
The aircraft that crashed was an
Airbus A321-231, registered
AP-BJB, The aircraft was built in 2000, and had a manufacturer
serial number of 1218. This was the first fatal crash for the A321,
and the second hull-loss of the type. The aircraft had originally
been delivered to
Aero Lloyd and used by
Aero Flight before being
taken up by
Airblue in 2006. It had accumulated over 34,000 flight
hours in some 13,500 flights. The aircraft was previously struck
by lightning on 30 December 2008.
The Captain of Flight 202, 61-year-old Pervez Iqbal Chaudhry, had
25,500 hours of flying experience, with 1,000 hours on the A320
aircraft. The 34-year-old First Officer (Sqn Ldr) Muntajib
Ahmed, a former F-16
Pakistan Air Force fighter pilot, had almost
2,000 hours of flying experience and only for the short time on the
Margala Hills, the crash site of Flight 202
The flight left
Karachi at 07:41 local time (02:41 UTC). Flight
Benazir Bhutto International Airport
Benazir Bhutto International Airport lost contact with
the aircraft at 09:41 local time (04:41 UTC). Weather conditions
at the time were marginal, and the captain of a China Southern
airliner had diverted to an alternate airport thirty minutes
The aircraft approached
Islamabad from the southeast, following a
procedure that required it to fly toward the airport until making
visual contact. It was then to have flown around the airport to the
east and north, keeping within a distance of 5 nmi (9.3 km),
until lining up with runway 12, which faces toward the southeast. The
aircraft crashed in the mountains outside the 5 nmi (9.3 km)
radius, approximately 8 nmi (15 km) north of the airport,
facing almost due west, before it could line up with runway 12 for
While the BBC reported that officials stated that "there was nothing
in conversations between the pilot and the
Islamabad control tower
that suggests anything was wrong", Multiple
EGPWS "TERRAIN AHEAD"
warnings were recorded on the
Cockpit Voice Recorder
Cockpit Voice Recorder starting 40
seconds before the crash. The first officer was also heard requesting
to the captain "Sir turn left, Pull Up Sir. Sir pull Up."
The pilots did not send any emergency signals prior to the crash.
Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik stated that the plane was at
2,600 feet (790 m) as it approached
Islamabad but went back up to
3,000 feet (910 m) before eventually crashing. The altitude
of 2,600 feet (790 m) was above the safe minimum descent altitude
(2,510 feet (770 m) above sea level, or 852 feet (260 m)
above ground level) had the aircraft remained within the 5 nmi
(9.3 km) radius of the airport.
One witness on the ground, who was out walking, stated that "the plane
had lost balance, and then we saw it going down". Others described
the plane as being lower than it should have been. "I wondered why the
plane wasn't flying higher as it was flying towards the hill", one
stated. "Then within three or four minutes I heard a loud explosion".
Another said that "it was raining. I saw the plane flying very low
from the window of my office". Imran Abbasi told The New York Times
that he "could tell it was trouble because it stayed so low even
though the mountains were up ahead". He stated that the jet was
"flying as low as a four-story building". It was reported that
Abbasi said that "as the aircraft started to turn, the right side of
its front banged into the highest mountain, emitting an instant billow
of blue fire and black smoke".
The plane was found near
Daman-e-Koh viewing point in the Margalla
Hills outside Islamabad. The
Los Angeles Times
Los Angeles Times reported that
"television footage of the crash site showed smoke and burning debris
strewn in a swath cutting through the forest. Rescue helicopters
hovered overhead. Fire was visible, and smoke was blowing up from the
The weather conditions nineteen minutes after the accident, as
detailed by the 05:00 UTC
METAR (aviation routine weather observation
message) report for Benazir Bhutto International Airport, were as
follows: Wind from 90° (east) at 18 knots (33 km/h). Visibility
3.5 kilometres (2.2 mi), rain, scattered clouds at 1,000 feet
(300 m), few clouds at 3,000 feet (910 m) overcast at 10,000
feet (3,000 m). Temperature 25 °C, dewpoint 24 °C.
QNH 1006.9 hPa.A
Passengers and crew
There were no survivors. Pakistani footballer Misha Dawood, 19, of
Diya Women Football Club (DWFC), Karachi, and former national
athlete Zafar Saleem, who was director-general of the Sindh Workers
Welfare Board, were among those killed in the crash.
Of the passengers, 110 were men, 29 were women, 5 were children, and 2
were infants. One active duty Captain of
Pakistan Army along with
six members of the Youth Parliament of
Pakistan were on board, as
were three off duty air hostesses, and four foreign
Nationalities of passengers
A local police official stated that he had reports "that the plane
fell into the Margalla Hills. There is smoke, but we have not been
able to reach there. It is surrounded by the hills and there is no
road access". An army helicopter arrived to survey the crash site
at 10:30 local time (04:30 UTC) but was not able to land. All 152
passengers have been confirmed dead. All hospitals in Islamabad
were declared in a state of emergency.
One person present at the scene of the crash stated that the
passengers "are badly mutilated and burnt ... and there are two
women among the dead". He told journalists that "a good number of
rescue workers have reached the site. Other people have reached here
on their own. The plane is totally destroyed. The pieces and parts
scattered over a large distance. Some parts of the plane are still
burning. Some bushes have been burnt." It was reported that
rescuers at the crash site were "digging through the rubble with their
bare hands." A senior city government official stated that the
rescue operation was "very difficult ... because of the rain.
Most of the bodies are charred. We're sending body-bags via
It was reported, however, that the rescue operation was "chaotic". BBC
journalist Zeesha Zafar reported that "there were fewer rescue workers
there than one would have expected. A majority of them were members of
the anti-terrorism police. Most of them just stood around, gazing at
the burning debris, and looking as though there was not much that they
could do." He stated that a police officer threatened to baton charge
rescuers if they did not "move quickly". Zafar reported that "just
when the rescuers were shuffling to get to work, a policeman in plain
clothes announced that an army helicopter was coming in to pour water
on the fire, and that everyone should get out of the way. The work
stopped. The helicopter came, circled on the spot a couple of times,
and went away. No water." Zafar went on that it "was distinctly
obvious that there was no co-ordination between the workers of
different departments such as the police, the rescue department, the
Capital Development Authority and the military ... Rescuers operated
in a chaotic manner, scouring through the debris that was not on fire
... During the two hours that I stayed at the scene, I saw rescuers
collect three separate loads of body parts which they tied up in
shrouds. There was no telling how many people they belonged to."
A statement on Airblue's website stated that "Airblue, with great
sadness, announces the loss of flight ED 202 inbound from
Islamabad. The flight crashed during poor weather and thick fog. We
regret the loss of life and are investigating the exact circumstances
of this tragedy. This will be presented as soon as possible." The
statement continued that "our hearts go out to the families and loved
ones of the passengers and crew." The compensation estimation
process for the victims by Airblue's insurer began on 30 July 2010,
with initial estimates of Rs 1,000,000 (US$11,169) per victim.
Both the Pakistani President
Asif Ali Zardari
Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister
Yousaf Raza Gillani
Yousaf Raza Gillani sent condolences to the family of those who died
in the accident. The Pakistani government declared 29 July 2010 would
be a national day of mourning and announced compensation of Rs 500,000
($5,847) to the family of every victim. U.S. President Barack
Obama issued a statement confirming that two Americans had been on the
flight and expressing condolences and stated that "our thoughts and
prayers go out to all of those touched by this horrible accident".
Airblue management decided that a monument would be built with the
names of the victims inscribed onto it to honor the dead.
The Civil Aviation Authority immediately launched an investigation
into the accident.
Airbus stated that they would provide full
technical assistance to Pakistani authorities. A six-member Airbus
team, headed by Nicolas Bardou, the company's director of flight
safety, arrived in
Islamabad on 29 July 2010.
The aircraft's flight recorders were located on 31 July, when
Junaid Ameen, the director-general of the
Pakistan Civil Aviation
Authority, told AFP that "the investigating committee found the black
box from the
Margalla Hills this morning ... the black box was found
from the bulk of the wreckage of the crashed plane." He stated that
the box would be examined by "foreign experts" in Germany or France as
Pakistan does not possess the equipment to decode the flight
recorders. He also stated that the process of extracting information
may take six months to a year. The Pakistani authorities
decided to send the CVR and FDR to the Bureau d'Enquêtes et
d'Analyses pour la Sécurité de l'Aviation Civile (BEA) in
The report issued by Pakistan's Civil Aviation Authority in November
2011 cited a lack of professionalism in the cockpit crew along with
poor weather as primary factors in the crash. In particular, the
report noted that the captain ignored or did not properly respond to a
multitude of Air Traffic Control directives and automated terrain
warning systems. The report also claimed that the first officer
passively accepted the captain's actions, after the captain on
multiple occasions took a "harsh, snobbish and contrary" tone with the
first officer and "berated" him.
The report concluded that the crash was a Controlled Flight into
Terrain accident, in which aircrew failed to display superior judgment
and professional skills in a self-created unsafe environment. In their
pursuit to land in inclement weather, they committed serious
violations of procedures and breaches of flying discipline, which put
the aircraft in an unsafe condition over dangerous terrain at low
Representatives of family members of passengers on the flight
questioned the validity of the report and the qualifications of those
who carried out the investigation.
Sequence of events leading to the crash
Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority (PCAA) issued the final report
in November 2011. It covered the key events that lead to the
The aircraft took off at 02:52 UTC. During the initial climb, the
Captain tested the knowledge of the First Officer, and used harsh
words in snobbish tones while speaking to him. This was very contrary
to Airblue's procedures. The lecture continued for about one hour,
with only brief intervals. After the humiliating session, the First
Officer remained mostly silent throughout the rest of the flight,
likely from a loss of self esteem and confidence. Subsequently, the
First Officer did not challenge the Captain over any of his errors or
While Flight 202 was descending to Islamabad, the Captain decided to
change the instrument landing approach to a visual circling approach.
The Captain checked the weather apprehensively, and asked the First
Officer to feed unauthorized 04 waypoints in the FMS. The First
Officer did not challenge the Captain for his incorrect actions (which
may have been caused by the "lecturing session" earlier). The Captain
then briefed the First Officer that he would turn the aircraft in the
direction of Runway 30, later to abeam 5 miles from the runway and
However, this is contrary to the procedures in
Islamabad for a visual
approach. When a visual approach is executed, the plane automatically
strings a final leg extending the runway centerline. It starts at a
waypoint labelled "RX" (Extended Center line) created 5 NM from the
runway threshold and ends at the runway threshold.
The Captain then requested a right hand downwind visual approach to
Runway 12 (the request again being contrary to established procedures
Islamabad Airport), but this was not agreed to by the Radar due to
procedural limitations. The Captain became worried about bad weather
and low clouds on the left hand downwind. The aircraft then started
its descent. The First Officer then repeated the request, but it
wasn't agreed on by the control tower, and retained the decision for
the crew to make a left downwind. Once again the Captain requested if
the right downwind was available, but this still wasn't agreed on by
the control tower.
The Captain wanted to descend to 2,000 ft, but the First Officer
reminded him that the Minimum Descent Altitude (MDA) was
2,500 ft, indicating the possible intentions of the Captain.
However, later on, the plane descended through 2,300 ft, thus
violating the MDA of 2.500 ft. After break-off from ILS approach,
the Captain ignored the tower controller’s suggestion to fly a bad
weather circuit by saying “let him say whatever he wants to say”.
The CVR recording and flight simulation show that the Captain probably
decided to fly a managed approach, unbeknownst to the ATS.
The crew commanded a left turn to 300° through the autopilot. This
could be done by rotating the heading knob of the aircraft to the
heading that the crew wanted and subsequently pulling the knob, which
would cause the plane to turn. However, because the crew forgot to
pull the knob, the plane didn't turn. A few seconds later, the first
"terrain ahead" warning sounded. The First Officer told the captain
"Sir, higher ground has reached, sir, there is a terrain ahead, sir
turn left”. By now the Captain had become very jittery in his verbal
communication and displayed frustration, confusion and anxiety
resulting in further deterioration in his behaviour.
Later on the Captain became confused due to several issues, including
the tower being asked frequently if the aircraft was in visual
approach, the imminent collision with terrain, and the plane not
turning on the heading it had been programmed to. The pilots were
unsure of their geographical position and did not seek radar help. The
consequent loss of situational awareness caused the aircraft to go
astray. In an attempt to turn the aircraft to the left, the Captain
was setting the heading bug on reduced headings, but not pulling the
HDG knob. Since the aircraft was in the NAV mode, the Captain was not
performing the appropriate actions to turn the aircraft to the left.
The "terrain ahead, pull up!" warning then sounded several times.
The aircraft ended up in a dangerous situation mostly because of
unprofessional handling by the Captain. Since the desired initiative
of the First Officer had been curbed and a communication barrier had
already been created by the Captain, the First Officer failed to
intervene and take over the controls to pull the aircraft out of
danger and display the required Crew Resources Management (CRM)
During the last few seconds, the aircraft climbed to 3,090 feet. The
Captain put in 52 degrees of bank to turn the aircraft, and also made
some nose down inputs. Therefore, the aircraft pitched down, speed
increased and auto thrust commanded the engines to spool down to keep
airspeed on the target speed. The aircraft started to descend at a
high rate. Unfortunately in his panic, the Captain continued to move
the heading knob without actually looking at it, but failed to pull
the knob to activate it. When he did activate it, the aircraft turned
towards the heading knob that had been rotated too far, to 25 degrees,
and stayed on that course until end of recording. At 04:40:49 the
Captain said to the First Officer "Why the aircraft is not turning
left?" The aircraft then slammed into Margala Hills and exploded. The
First Officer's last words could be heard saying to the Captain "Sir
we are going down! Sir we are going do—".
Accidents and incidents involving the
Airbus A320 family
Air China Flight 129
Air Inter Flight 148
American Airlines Flight 965
Armavia Flight 967
Bhoja Air Flight 213
Korean Air Cargo Flight 8509
Northwest Airlink Flight 5719
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September 2010. Archived from the original on 29 September 2010.
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Archived from the original on 30 July 2010. Retrieved 28 July
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^ "ASN Aircraft accident
Airbus A321-231 AP-BJB Islamabad-Benazir
Bhutto International Airport (ISB)". Aviation Safety Network. Archived
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Pakistan Plane Crash Near Islamabad:
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PAKISTAN CRASHED ON 28 JULY 2010 AT MARGALLA HILLS ISLAMABAD" (PDF).
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^ Final report, sections 10.4, 10.10, page 29
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Aviation Herald. Accessed 4 August 2010.
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^ Note: The previous reference was based upon an expired approach
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article. Until this can be verified with the approach plate that was
valid at the time of the accident, this interpretation should be
viewed with some caution.
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^ Articles mentions off-duty status of air hostess Ayesha
^ Article mentions off-duty status of air hostess Javeria Archived 21
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^ a b Article mentions Somali national Archived 31 July 2010 at the
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(Archive). The News. Thursday, 22 December 2011. Retrieved on 10 June
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^ a b c d e f g h "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original
(PDF) on 3 January 2012. Retrieved 2012-01-03. Final report
METAR raw data: OPRN 280500Z 09018KT 3500 RA SCT010 SCT030
OVC100 FEW030 25/24 Q1006.9 
Wikinews has related news:
Plane crash in Pakistani capital kills 152
'Black box' found near crash site of
Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority (Archive)
Final report (Archive)
Accident description at the Aviation Safety Network
"Passenger list for ABQ-202". The Times of India. 28 July 2010.
Retrieved 28 July 2010.
Lucky escape for 12 would-be passengers[dead link] (all are on The
Times of India list of 158 passengers)
The last words of victims of
Airblue flight ED 202(collected from
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