The Pegasus Airlines Boeing 737 skidded off the runway at Istanbul’s Sabiha Gökçen Airport on February 5, crashed into a ditch and broke into three sections. Officials said it was a drop of between 30 to 40 meters.
Over 180 passengers were injured and three people died. Captain Mahmut Arslan was interviewed by the state prosecutor after he was released from hospital.
Initial reports suggest that the passenger jet may have aquaplaned on landing in extremely wet and windy conditions.
After a preliminary interview in hospital, the captain, who had sustained injuries to his spine and ribs, gave evidence. Captain Arslan said that they were given a route for the 2-4 runway, “We had avoided the weather in Izmir. These conversations took place in English”.
Arslan said the plane was struck by lightening in Yalova, “A powerful lightning strike in Yalova was an important event. This is an important event. It may cause device loss on the plane and the system’s failure. Due to the weather conditions, we asked for a direct route to the starting point of 06 AILS. The air traffic control confirmed”, he said.
Following this, Captain Arslan said that they were were descending, preparing for landing. “Co-pilot Ferdinand Pondaag reported in English to the Pegasus technical department that the plane had been struck by lightning. It was not a reason for us not to descend. The tower did not give any instructions such as ‘do not descend’. We evaluated according to the data we received. It did not constitute an obstacle [to landing]”, he said.
Runway Was Not Cleared of Tyre Tracks
Arslan said, “I landed safely. The landing started at first the third of the runway. There was no hard landing. I felt slowing of the plane. The runway we used was 06 runway. But the end of the runway was in the direction of the 2-4 landing runway. So there were plenty of tyre marks. The tyre tracks need to be cleaned periodically, otherwise it will cause slipperiness. Therefore, I think the plane skidded on the day of the incident”.
He said that there was no reason not to land and the speed of the plane was within normal limits during landing. “I have not made any errors and I demand to be released,” Captain Arslan said.
No Warning From Co-Pilot
Arsland said, “After landing, it is not possible to follow the speed of the plane. This task belongs to the co-pilot. Because after I have landed, the observation of all the abnormalities belongs to the co-pilot. I must be warned by the co-pilot. I was not warned by the co-pilot. Therefore, I may have braked when I noticed after six seconds”.
The court ordered Arslan to be arrested, citing the existence of a strong suspicion of criminal action, by insisting on landing the plane, delaying braking by six seconds, despite the fact that two planes had by-passed the runway due to instructions from the tower.
Meanwhile, Turkish daily ‘Hurriyet’ reported that experts are examining the records about the tyres.
It has also been revealed that the Indonesian second officer on the plane could not help the system because the officials at the operations tower spoke Turkish and all the conversations were held by the Turkish captain.
The problems caused by the Turkish exchange will have to be reviewed by General Directorate of State Airports Authority (DHMİ), as the conversations between the tower and the cockpit should have been carried out in English.
The crash happened as the 11-year-old aircraft landed in strong winds and heavy rain. U.S. aviation investigators have also inspected the wreckage to see if there were any technical factors that could have contributed to the accident.
Pegasus has had several recent instances of overshooting runways.
Another Pegasus Airlines plane skidded off the runway at the same airport on January 7, causing the temporary closure of the airport. There were no injuries.
In January 2018, another Boeing 737 in the Pegasus fleet slid off a runway at Trabzon Airport in north-eastern Turkey. The plane came to rest in the dirt above the Black Sea with its nose pointed toward the water. No one was injured.
Yeni Duzen, Hurriyet.