I Opyne

An Emergency Landing

with 22 comments

I recently had to make an official trip from Islamabad to Karachi and Shaheen Airways turned out to be the only option given my meetings schedule. My misgivings about traveling on Shaheen airlines (given its bad reputation) were further fueled by news of the Bhoja airline crash near Rawalpindi, an incident that had happened only two days ago, in which all 121 passengers as well as crew had lost their lives.

With these worries on my mind, I boarded Shaheen Airways flight NL122, a Boeing 737 (same as the crashed Bhoja aircraft), on the morning of 22nd April 2012. To the Pilot’s credit the journey went quite smoothly. Maybe it was because of the Bhoja tragedy that the Pilot was being extra careful in keeping the passengers calm. Every minor turbulation was followed by an announcement declaring it as expected and assuring the passengers that there was no need to worry.

Everything went well, until we landed at Karachi Airport; as soon as the plane touched the runway, its left tyre burst with a loud explosion and it lost the whole accompanying assembly. The landing from that point onward was basically being carried out with the left engine serving as a tyre. Hats off to the Pilot for keeping the plane on the runway and bringing it to a screeching halt. It was then that I took the following photographs. I will explain each as we move along.

While the passengers were still trying to figure out what had happened, the air stewardess did the regular landing announcement. Believe it or not, but she told us the local time as well as temperature and asked us to make sure that we take our hand luggage with us, but not even a word about the situation that we were in. To top it off she came out into the main cabin and announced “kuch bhi nahi hua” (there is nothing wrong). But right outside our windows we could see ambulances and fire brigade engines coming screaming at us.

As a fellow passenger later informed us, the engine during its contact with the runway had been letting out sparks and flames. Media reports corroborated that and Express Tribune (ET) had the following on the emergency response to this incident; “Embers that sparked from the rims were extinguished with the help of water.” But this “extinguishing” with the help of “water” was not as simple as the ET would have you believe. Before I detail what exactly happened, it is important to note that on the 14th of April 2012, i.e. only eight days before this incident, there was a full scale emergency exercise that was carried out on the Karachi International Airport. The apparent “success” of that exercise was truly put in perspective after what we went through. In anycase, here is what I saw:

First came the fire brigade, fancy fire engines that looked straight out of some Hollywood movie, the firemen, decked in protective gear also pretty much looked the part, but then came the fire hose and guess what? it simply didn’t work.

First one fireman was struggling with the hose,

soon he was joined by another one but still nothing happened

even the third one didn’t make a difference, but then horror of all horrors the leaking fuel spread out to the extent that it became visible from the plane as encircled in the pictures below

I am no aviation emergency expert, but when a plane has crash landed, is leaking fuel, and has sparks flying out of its engine, then that to me is a justification for the necessity of emergency doors and those annoying emergency exit instructions at the beginning of every flight. But instead of calling for an emergency exit, the Pilot had us sit on this ticking time bomb, while his staff insisted that we drink either Sprite or Pepsi and remain “calm”, BECAUSE the pilot believed that everything was under control.

One explanation that I heard for this ridiculous behavior was that Shaheen Air might have appeared bad if we had used the emergency exit to disembark. The supposed incentive of both the Pilot and his employer was in giving a modicum of normalcy to an otherwise chaotic situation. I don’t know whether this is just a conspiracy theory or an accurate description of the reason behind this madness, but if its the latter then the lives of those 172 passengers and six crew members were being put in danger for the sake of some marketing leverage.

In anycase, the wait was for a staircase and a fellow passenger told me later on that he had called the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), asking for the expedited delivery of a staircase for our plane. BUT the response from the other end was that since the plane belonged to Shaheen airlines the call should also be made to them, thank you very much.

By that point the passengers had had enough of both Pepsi and Sprite and had started to get agitated. A gentleman sitting behind me got up and pulled out the emergency door.

This action was met by a severe reprimand from the air steward, who as a result faced double the hostility from the passengers. But even after the steward backed off, no one tried making an exit from this door, probably because this was the troubled side of the plane, and also that the fire hoses had finally started working.

From the moment our plane stopped on the runway, it took almost half an hour for the staircase to finally arrive, and a slow exit began. During that time a passenger had fainted and the trauma faced by the children was evident from their faces.

Stepping outside we got an idea of the scale of the accident, as seen in the pictures below.

Here is a news report on the incident.

Given the Bhoja tragedy, this was yet another carnage waiting to happen. From the clearance of the plane to take off, to the faulty fire hoses, to a pilot who didn’t know the meaning of an emergency exit, this whole experience represented a mockery of the norms of aviation conduct and also highlighted the value that was placed on the lives of 178 ordinary Pakistanis.

The sad part is that we most definitely should expect the same negligence in the coming days, as much worse has happened before this incident. As always the death of the next 121 can also be accredited to the marzi (will) of Allah.


Written by Imran Khan

May 5, 2012 at 1:33 pm

22 Responses

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  1. its the later version of the 737 that crashed (bhoja). This is 300 series one, the one that crashed was 200 series. But overall a good report on the poor response shown by CAA, I think Allah saved you and your passengers that day otherwise the situation could have turned worse at any moment


    May 6, 2012 at 6:43 am

    • Actually, this particular aircraft is a 400 series, not 300. 737-400 is slightly longer than the 300 and has two over the wing exit door, as seen in this picture.


      May 10, 2012 at 8:29 pm

    • You are so full of shit. Acting all high and mighty… What the aircraft type… peoples’ lives were in danger

      Dont talk BS

      May 11, 2012 at 4:55 pm

  2. Wow as an aviation enthusiast and a GA pilot what you write is madness PIC ( Pilot in Command ) was a first class idiot and should be sued along with Shaheen air & Pak Airforce foundation which owns this piece of shit one should also sue CAA which seems to be also run by incompetent ex military personnel. the first job of the PIC should have been the safety and immediate evacuation of the passengers lets face it planes are dangerous to fly wither we like it or not . we make it safe by our checklists SOP and maintenance of aircraft and decision making ability of the PIC’s this guy should be sacked ! all one needs to watch free FAA & EAA.org webinars and see how Captain Sully landed his plane in the Hudson river of new york and his actions afterwords this makes me sick !


    May 6, 2012 at 7:41 am

  3. THANKS for sharing. I am never going to fly with these incompetent idiots for sure. There has got to be a genetic defect somewhere in the make up of the shaheen air and the fire brigade people. They cannot be trained in anyway. Real Duffer DNA. cheers 🙂 the important thing is nobody died this time.

    larki desi

    May 6, 2012 at 7:57 am

  4. Yes very truely written, as I was one of the passenger, and no doubt Allah shows us through these incidents that when there is MY will 121 die without plane fault, may be due to weather and when HE dont want then 172 landed safe after such a horrible accident, as our authorities has left nothing to risk our lives. I was the one who called CAA for help. I would like to add some points,
    1) It was not fault of pilot at all, infact I had chance to meet him before flight he was quite confident and afterall he landed us safe after breaking of landing gear. It’s the authorities fault who passes these planes quality checks.
    2) Till the landing it was accident, but putting all lives at risk for 30 minutes was deliberate as no ambulances or staircade arrived till such time
    3) Where were those slides were for which announcements are made before every flight that do not wear pointed heels etc
    4) One of passenger opened emergency exit by his own due to suffocation, but it opened with a pull by least effort. However it should’ve opened by pulling lever and another procedure to open it. It is again very big loop hole.

    after what happened I thank to Allah for saving us.

    Dr. Muhammad Ahsun Ali

    May 6, 2012 at 11:24 am

  5. I am amazed to learn that fire fighters were using water too coll the landing gear wheel assembly! NEVER, NEVER water is used. Always the cooling is done by high pressure air as throwing water can only compound the existing emergency. Fuel leaking and NO FOAM USED! How lucky you all survived. The moment the aircraft came to a stop, emergency evacuation from the opposite side of the tire burst and damaged engine side, as a consequence, should have been done. This negligence requires to cancel the Airline Transport Pilot’s Licence.

    A retired pilot

    May 6, 2012 at 3:09 pm

    • Shaheen Airways has a culture and history of sacking pilots who defy the CEO’s directive and enter defects in
      the Maintenace Log. Being cool in a crisis is a positive but in this case, the Pilots should have their licences cancelled. Furthermore the Fire and Rescue Services should be heavily penalised and punished.This performance was a mockery of the services provided by CAA at exhorbitant charges to the passenger through the charges to the Operators for these services. So much for the Practice Drill of these Services carried out a few days earlier.

      Another retired pilot

      May 8, 2012 at 5:55 pm

  6. Reblogged this on khanyawar and commented:
    Must Read.

    Yawar Saeed Khan

    May 8, 2012 at 12:08 pm

  7. I agree. When the aircraft came to a stop, immediately call for an evacuation, open the doors and since the slides are “armed” get the hell out. Instead, they sat on a veritable time-bomb.

    Meekal Ahmed

    May 9, 2012 at 9:38 am



    May 10, 2012 at 5:52 am

    • I don’t know how its a mistake of pilot? It’s an engineering fault which should be checked by CAA

      Dr. Muhammad Ahsun Ali

      May 10, 2012 at 6:12 am

      • Sorry, but the pilot in command is responsible for the condition of his aircraft. It may have been an engineering fault, but he should have noticed it and dealt with it before takeoff. That is how responsible airlines run their business.


        July 2, 2012 at 10:56 pm

  9. Thanks for sharing, its chlling story and pictures are mindboggling. Thanks “Allah” that you & 177 other passanger went home in one piece & unhurt.This is gross negligence and defective pilot training & unskilled + safarshi ground crew in dealing an emergency. Its non-sense on part of Pilot not to use emergency exits shoots and waite for normal exit while fuel is leaking. Pakistan is a failed state in total…. not a damn things functions orderly…Solution ??? How to avoid such incidents & mistakes in future. Error is human but repeating is stupid. Dr. Ashraf Abbasi

    Dr. Ashraf Abbasi

    May 10, 2012 at 10:57 am

    • Alhamdulilah Pakistan is not a failed state but has certainly produced some unpatriotic people like you.We should avoide such incidents in future but mind it that our aviation history is far better, safe and incident free than the west/india instead of their state of the art equipments/facilities.
      Inayat Ullah.

      Inayat Ullah

      May 12, 2012 at 5:29 pm

  10. If we go through The 737 check list, it clearly says, in case of on ground emergency ‘exit from the opposite side of emergency’. I wonder why emergency evacuation was not carried out. Now, this is a brazen ‘Pilot Errot’, rest all can be atributed to bad maintenance practice. Though Shaheen is no longer owned by Air Force, but , it is a fact that 99% Pilots are Ex Air Force. yes I agree that at least CAA should cancel the Pilot’s Licence and severely punish the Fire crew for mishandling of the Fire/Emergency.

    a pilot

    May 10, 2012 at 8:04 pm

  11. I think the incident reflects not only the un professional approach of the entire operating crew of the Shaheen Airline Crew but also the efficiency of our pathetic Civil Aviation Authority’s competency.
    The first thing CAA should have done was to pound the Flight Crew,take their blood samples,checked their Licensing documents and after that the suspension of the Licenses of the pilots and the competency certificates of the Cabin Crew. It was a case of gross ignorance on the part of entire crew not to evacuate the aircraft. I have my doubts now whether there were ESCAPE SLIDES fitted on this aircraft.

    All said and done it depicts a sorry state of affairs on our aviation safety scenario. ALLAH HELP US.


    May 11, 2012 at 4:56 am

  12. I am wondering if Allah saved all those people does it mean that the PIC can overrule Allah? I mean, im sure Allah would have started the evacuation then and why didnt Allah send some water thru those hoses, or placed some stairs at the aircraft etc etc… Bottom line is that there was an incident where NOONE knows whos at fault or what is the cause and outcome till after SPECIALISTS have investigated the accident and came up with causes and responsabilities… THEN and ONLY then comments like above should be made in my humble opinion ….


    May 14, 2012 at 4:50 pm

  13. Rest assured you’ll never know the truth; if at all our stale investigation procedures find out, no one would ever be brought to justice, regardless of which institutions or individuals are blamed. Is that not always the case following all accidents, tragedies and scandals. We deserve it, for we beg justice, not seek it! How many of the said Air Blue passengers would jointly file a suit against the airline and the CAA, and claim damages for the mental agony caused alone? Any volunteer lawyers to help? How many would be prepared to have a sit-in (call it peaceful ‘Gherao’) out side the head offices of the responsible organisations? Do not just lament. Rise against all such wrongs and seek justice relentlessly; the high-ups of this land of pure simply can’t stop you!

    Parvez Akmal

    May 18, 2012 at 1:28 pm

    • The name of shaheen was sold to mr Sehbahai by pakistan Airforce like pakistan navy sold their name Bhairia to Malik Riaz. Shaheen airlines buys only junk aircrafts to fly and few more aircrafts from junk yards to canablize the spare parts to keep the aircrafts flying, which are off course approved by Caa pakistan, again controlled by pakistan air force serving and retired personels for their personnel gains since they are there for two to three years on secondments.
      Their pilots are also rejected and retired lot of airforce pilots who have no experience of passenger aircrafts. They get their licences from course mates or friends of course mates who also know nothing about passanger aircrafts flying or safety procedures and are in charge of caa helm of affairs.
      Not evacuating passengers and serving drinks while sitting on a bomb is a shame on the standards of pakistan civil aviation authority where no civilian is allowed by pakistan airforce.
      There was no escape slide available otherwise it would have automatically deployed. You need to disarm the slides to open the doors in normal circumstances and I am sure that the passenger who opened the door must not be familiar with disarming procedure. May Allaha subhantala keep Guarding us despite of all the safarishes, corruptions, inabilities we have with no plans to curtail.
      Another pilot


      July 4, 2012 at 6:58 pm

      • This is ridiculous to put your comments in such a way against CAA,our airforce and their X pilots.Mind it that our airforce is one among the world best professional air force and their track record shows no compromise on safety and thorough implementation of standard safety procedures.An incident or accident caused by an individual or shaped through malfunction of machinery can not be solely attributed to an organisation.I think you are not pakistan national.


        July 4, 2012 at 9:09 pm

      • Yes passenger was not familiar with disarming procedure, he just pulled and it opened.
        Secondly if plane got its tyre burst or assemly broken how Its pilot’s negligence, or otherwise its pilot’s duty to check every part before flying?? Then whats the duty of airline engineers and CAA checks??
        There were no emergency slides otherwise it would opened automatically.
        Emergencies can happen(only can be avoided by precautions which is difficult in our circumstances) but what’s in our hand then is to manage it which was a responsibility of CAA. It’s a government authority whose responsibility is to protect our people. But as other government matters its all corruption that is evident.

        Dr. Ahsun Ali

        November 24, 2012 at 8:59 am

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