Two years after the catastrophic 2016 Flight 661 crash, the Safety Investigation Board (SIB) is near concluding its investigation on that unfortunate incident, and during the course of investigation, has uncovered some important and concerning findings about the crash which require immediate attention.

We remember all too well that tragic day of 2016, when a Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) flight crashed while on route from Chitral to Islamabad. The crashing of the aircraft ATR 42-500 twin-turboprop was responsible for the deaths of the 47 passengers on board, including beloved musician turned evangelical Junaid Jamshed, and Deputy Commissioner of the District of Chitral. The crash at that time directed a lot of criticism towards PIA due to accusations that the airline did not investigate aircraft defects thoroughly and that the crash could have been avoided had PIA done thorough checks of its infrastructure.

The SIB investigation appears to confirm the theory that PIA was to blame for the tragedy. According to the SIB report, Flight 661 started showing signs of trouble when one blade of power turbine stage-1, inside engine-1 started to dislodge due to fatigue. This dislodging of one blade resulted in an in-flight engine shutdown which contributed towards malfunctioning of the No 1 propeller.

Here is where PIA may be liable for criminal negligence- these turbine blades were to be changed after completion of 10,000 hours of use on next immediate maintenance opportunity. The said engine was under maintenance on Nov 11, 2016 and at that time these blades had completed 10,004.1 hours of use and were due for a change. The report indicates that PIA, due to of lack of due diligence, did not bother changing the turbine blades after they ran their course- and allowed old worn turbine blades to be used during Flight 661, which led the blades to malfunction easily.

PIA spokesman Mashood Tajwar has said that the SIB’s findings were not a full report on the air crash but initial recommendations. However, if the SIB’s revelations about PIA’s lack of oversight over used machinery are true, then these findings must be taken extremely seriously. There would need to be investigation on whether PIA is currently following its service bulletin guidelines of regular oversight of machinery and infrastructure. These checks and balances, if imposed, will only go in PIA’s favour- with proper adherence to security guidelines, PIA could restore some of the trust it lost from customers after the Flight 661 disaster.