KARACHI, Pakistan (Reuters) – A team of Pakistani and French investigators on Wednesday sifted through the wreckage of a Pakistani airliner that crashed in the southern city of Karachi last Friday, searching for clues around what caused the worst airline disaster in the country in years.
Investigators were also hunting for the Airbus A320 jet’s cockpit voice recorder, said a spokesman for Pakistan International Airlines (PIA).
“The flight data recorder has been found; the cockpit voice recorder is still being traced,” PIA’s spokesman told Reuters.
Earlier, the spokesman told media the black box had been found and it contained both the data and voice recorder.
Parts of the wreckage of the A320 were removed from the site on Wednesday after extracting them from building rubble in the densely populated area where the PIA jet crashed, residents and eyewitnesses said.
PIA flight PK 8303, flying from the eastern city of Lahore crashed roughly a kilometre short of the airport runway, killing 97 of the 99 people on board.
Under international aviation rules, French investigators from the BEA – the French air safety investigation authority for civil aviation – have joined the Pakistan-led probe because the 15-year-old Airbus jet was designed in France.
Their arrival was initially hampered by widespread travel bans in force to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The French team and technical representatives of Airbus and engine maker Safran had to be flown in on an Airbus A330-900 test plane.
The French team is now helping Pakistani authorities search for the cockpit voice recorder and examining the fuselage, which ploughed between buildings and was partly buried under rubble.
There have been no reported deaths on the ground.
Particular focus will be on the plane’s CFM56 engines, one of which plunged into the side of a building, according to a person close to the investigation.
The engines were made by CFM International, a joint-venture of France’s Safran and General Electric, and are among the most widely used and reliable in the airline industry.
The pilot reported both engines had failed shortly after the plane bounced and scraped along the runway in a failed initial landing attempt.
He made no reference to a landing gear problem as the aircraft followed what appeared to be a steeper-than-usual descent, according to people close to the probe. Video showed the wheels extended on the second, fatal attempt to land.
Safety experts stress it is too early to say what caused the crash.
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