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Pakistan Flight Crash: A Passenger Plane Crashing Over Residential Area is a Rare Incidence

A security personnel in tactical gear gestures near the Pegasus Airlines Boeing 737-86J plane, that overran the runway during landing and crashed, at Istanbul's Sabiha Gokcen airport, Turkey. (Image: Reuters)

A security personnel in tactical gear gestures near the Pegasus Airlines Boeing 737-86J plane, that overran the runway during landing and crashed, at Istanbul's Sabiha Gokcen airport, Turkey. (Image: Reuters)

The pilot's instinct and training is to take away the aircraft as far away from a residential area before losing the controls.

Arjit Garg
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In January 2009, an Airbus 320 flight was hit by birds resulting in engine failure. The captain of the flight, Chesley Sullenberger, aka Sully, made a quick decision to not divert the flight over New York City to go to the nearby airport but land it in the middle of the Hudson River.

His daring landing saved lived of 155 people onboard making him a popular figure globally. While many criticized his decision to not attempt a diversion to the nearby airport, an investigation revealed that not only he made the right decision to save 155 lives, by Landing his plane in the river possibly saved numerous more on the ground.

That's a chance every pilot has to take everytime they are in command of the sophisticated flying machines. Sophisticated because a flight crash is a rare incidence thanks to the ample use of technology and safety features inside the plane. Even more rare is a fatal crash that results in everyone on board getting killed, like the famous Boeing-gate episode where two Boeing 737 Max planes crashed due to a faulty sensor resulting in a death of more than 350 passengers within 5 months period.


However, what's even more rare is a plane crashing in a residential area, like the passenger plane belonging to state-run airline Pakistani International Airlines that crashed near the southern port city of Karachi.

The aircraft arriving from the eastern city of Lahore was carrying 99 passengers and eight crew members and crashed in the residential area on the edge of the airport known as Model Colony which is a poor area and heavily congested.

A resident of the area, Abdul Rahman, said he saw the aircraft circle at least three times, appearing to try to land at the airport before it crashed into several houses.

The very fact that plane crashed in a residential area means pilot lost the control of the plane completely. Had it been otherwise, the pilot training would have made him take away the plane as far away from a residential area as he could.

"The rules of flying in an emergency are first you aviate, then you navigate, then you communicate," says Greg Waldron, Asia managing editor at Flight Global in an interview given to BBC.

Simply put, a pilot, in case of emergency, tries to keep his plane in the air for as much time as possible understanding the problems, going through the manual, contacting the ATC. He then works on the route keeping the ATC and passengers informed.

"Pilots will always avoid coming down in a civilian area if they can, but situations during these instances can be very intense and hectic," says Mr Waldron. "A lot will depend on how much control they have over the aircraft."

But if nothing works, the pilot tries to force land the plane on a nearby runway, highway, empty lands, river (As in case of Sully) and lastly, with no option left, residential area is where a plane can crash.

The last known plane crash in a residential area was reported from the Democratic Republic of Congo where at least 26 people died when an airplane crashed shortly after takeoff. The plane was a 19-seat Dornier-228 aircraft, operated by local company Busy Bee. Authorities said all 17 passengers and two crew members on board the flight died, as did seven people on the ground.

Before that incidence of a big plane like Hercules crashing in a residential area was reported in 2015 when Indonesian military plane crashed in a densely populated area.


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