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Details emerge about fatal flight path of Pakistani Airblue A321

The Airblue passenger aircraft that crashed yesterday in Pakistan was doing a circling approach to runway 12 at Islamabad's Benazir Bhutto International Airport because it was prevented from landing at runway 30 due to adverse winds.

"The aircraft was on an ILS (instrument landing system) approach to runway 30 from the southeast and then broke off due to adverse winds and started to do a circling visual approach for runway 12 from the northwest side," Airblue CEO, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, says in an email to ATI.

"The crash site is actually north/northeast of the airport on an extended downward wind," he adds.

The crash site is in the Margalla mountains and satellite images show the crash site is 9.66nm from the airport.

Air traffic control prevented the aircraft from landing on runway 30 because the aircraft would have encountered a tail-wind if it tried to land on that runway, says a Karachi-based official, who wishes to remain anonymous. The official works in the Pakistan CAA's air traffic control management division.

The official also says aircraft doing a circling approach into Islamabad airport are required to stay within 5nm of the airport. The fact that the crash site is more than 5nm away means the aircraft was in a no-fly zone, he adds.


He also says one focus of the investigation will be whether all the systems on the aircraft were working correctly, particularly the ground proximity warning system. The aircraft was an Airbus A321, local registration AP-BJB.

Airblue has highlighted in the news media that the pilot in command, Capt Pervez Iqbal Chaudhary, had over 25,000hr of flying experience.

Pervez as well as the aircraft's five other crew and 146 passengers were all killed in the crash. The accident occurred yesterday at around 10:00hr local time.

The aircraft had left Karachi airport earlier that morning and was performing a scheduled passenger service to Islamabad.

The last time that Pakistan had a fatal crash, involving a passenger commercial aircraft, was in 2006 when a Pakistan International Airlines Fokker F27 crashed and killed 45 people.

Airblue is a privately-owned carrier and the country's second-largest airline. Besides the aircraft that crashed, the airline also has two other A321s as well as one Airbus A320 and two Airbus A319s, says Flightglobal's ACAS database.

Airbus says the aircraft that crashed was built in the year 2000 and had accumulated approximately 34,000 flight hours in some 13,500 flights.

ACAS says International Lease Finance is the aircraft's owner. Airbus says Airblue started leasing it in January 2006.

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