Pilot’s hesitation contributed to Istanbul plane accident, experts say

World Faizah Kamal 08-Feb-2020
Turkey Pegasus Airlines
ID 170002347 © Jozsef Soos | Dreamstime.com

The hesitation of the pilots, the air traffic controller, the rapid change in wind speed and the age-worn runway at Istanbul’s Sabiha Gökçen Airport have all been pointed out as possible causes of the plane accident, leavin three dead and 180 injured on February 5.

Pegasus Airlines Flight PC2193 was landing from the western province of İzmir when it skidded off the runway on February 5 in inclement weather.

The preliminary assessment of the investigation commission, assigned by the Transport and Infrastructure Ministry, focused on the possibility of a “wind shear,” which is defined as a sudden change in wind speed or direction over a short distance.

Normally, pilots are trained to avoid wind shear risks caused by microbursts and downbursts often by following a procedure of missed approach, according to an expert.

“The given tail wind limit for passenger planes is 10 knots. But, the limit decreases to five knots if the runway is wet. We see that the tail wind during the landing of this plane was 22 knots, and it even rose to 34 knots, or 61 kilometres per hour,” said retired air traffic controller Zafer Yeşilgül.

“In such a situation the air traffic control tower should definitely not give permission for landing. Besides, the pilot can also see the wind speed on his screen. So, he should have initiated a go-around even if a landing permission was given,” he added.

The decision of the two pilots, Turkish and South Korean nationals, to try for a difficult landing can be caused by a motivation to save time and fuel, aviation expert and daily Hürriyet columnist Uğur Cebeci wrote.

“Pilots always aim at landing as soon as possible to transport passengers on time. It’s a hidden pressure,” he wrote.