Bahraini paper blames pilot for fatal crash


Manama, Bahrain - A last-ditch manoeuvre at excessive speed by the pilot of the Gulf Air Airbus A320 caused the plane to plunge into Gulf waters short of the runway, killing all 143 people on board, a newspaper reported here on Friday.

"The pilot was requested by the control tower not to land with that high speed," the Bahrain Tribune said, quoting sources it said had spoken on the condition of anonymity.

"If the plane had landed at that speed, it would have overshot the runway," the Tribune added, citing an alleged conversation between the pilot and the air traffic control tower and visual images on the tower's radar.

The newspaper said the pilot responded to the tower's instuctions by climbing again, then making two turns to reduce speed and finally reapproaching the runway.

However, the newspaper said the plane's speed was still too high for landing and that the tower again instructed the pilot to reduce speed.

"On the third attempt, the pilot took a small turn at high speed and lost control, which caused the plane to nosedive and crash into the shore next to the runway," the newspaper said.

Bahraini airport authorities have claimed the control tower did not ask the pilot Ihsan Shakeeb about his two failed attempts to land and said he did not issue any distress call.

Searchers have recovered the flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder from the wreckage of Flight GF072, which was traveling from Cairo to Bahrain, but the Bahraini authorities are awaiting the arrival of investigators before analysing them.

A team from Airbus Industrie arrived in Manama on Thursday, along with French and British accident investigation experts. Counterparts from the Federal Aviation Authority and the National Transportation Board are due to arrive from the United States later on Friday.

Abu Dhabi television said that Wednesday's accident was "due to human error and not to technical malfunction." - Sapa-AFP

/sn 08/25/00 13-34


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