Solving The Case {Part 2} - PIA 404

Hello, IFC!

This topic is part of a series to (hopefully) solve or at least try to solve aviation mysteries that very few have heard of.

Previous topic here

AP-BBF, a Fokker F27 took off from Gilgit airport on August 25 1989 at 7:26. The airplane was bound for Islamabad and took off normally, with no reported issues.

At 7:40, the pilot made a routine communication with ATC, however, the aircraft disconnected from all radars/means of communication and has never been seen again, 33 years later. In total, 54 people went missing, including 49 passengers and 5 crew members.

The only theories are that the aircraft crashed in the Himalayas, (possibly) to the north of the airport, roughly 9 minutes after takeoff. However, no wreckage has been found. It is also believed that the aircraft could have been shot down by the Indian Army after crossing the LoC.

Following the incident, a large search operation consisting of multiple C-130s, search helicopters as well as hundreds of ground troops, and Indian Army search and rescue aircraft have scanned the mountains surrounding the airport, but in vain.

After some digging, here is some info I found online so you don’t have to:

Takeoff Conditions at Gilgit
1989 Archives
Possible Crash Area
Crash Report
Tribune Article
Wikidata

image
The aircraft involved in the incident.


Gilgit Airport, the one involved in the incident.
In the last topic, forum members have come together and in a few hours, have been able to uncover lots of information about the incident from hundreds of sources. Let’s see how we can work together to try to solve this mystery.

Thank you.

Robertine

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I love solving mysteries. Nice Topic. At this point you technically have no clue where it went since it lost all radars and communication from ATC.

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(This theory) To be honest, if somebody digs hard enough into the archives, you could probably find a list of planes shot down and what they were identified as

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Love another mystery! I’ll take a look at whatiw available and see what I can judge from here

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Wikipedia lists the search area as being “around the 8,000-metre-high (26,000 ft) mountain Nanga Parbat” which own Wikipedia page makes it very clear is a dangerous mountain to climb, even informing us of its nickname “Killer Mountain”

Now going off of Wikipedia’s short article about the flight isn’t exactly the most information I could gather and I don’t know exactly where the actual search area was but if it was actually on Nanga Parbat then the ability to effectively search for debris would be beyond difficult. especially because we don’t know how it actually crashed… if it plunged into the ground at high speed the debris would be very hard to see from anything other than on foot 🤷‍♂️

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I found this on the mountain flank where the plane is assumed to have crashed Does anyone know what this is?

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what website is this

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Did some simulation flights with a Q400, being similar to the F27 and all, flying based on the performance aspects of the F27 (see here). I also did a few means of overestimation such as departing from runway 25 and climbing at vertical speeds of marginally higher than recommended up until the service ceiling, since it’s harder to get flight info from a black box that isn’t even found.

Judging by that I might say:

  1. Crashing on Nanga Parbat seems fairly likely, considering even with overestimations, it was still prone to crashing on the peaks of either Chongra or Nanga Parbat, which has its chance with the difficult to navigate terrain.

  2. I’m quite sceptical on the theory that it was shot down by the IAF, considering that getting to the line of control in this case is both dangerous (the direct route cutting straight through Nanga Parbat), and inconvenient, i.e a detour to the south-east of Bunji would probably take long enough for people to either witness the shootdown or the plane to fly overhead in that direction (note there are a few towns on the Indian side of the LoC).

    I also should add that shooting the aircraft down logically would spark a massive political scandal that clearly hasn’t escalated, especially with this being a larger passenger aircraft.

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Coordinates? Can’t seem to find it.

Edit: Found it!

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This looks more like an agricultural settlement that may be abandoned, there’s many other instances of what look like allotments and farms like this nearby, which look a little better maintained, the shadows also imply that there are buildings, rather than debris:

image

Plus, I can’t imagine the search would be that easy, considering the large search party ensuing, that would be way too easy :^)

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Google Earth Pro

So if I understand well, the aircraft has never ever been found despite discovery actions in place, and the aircraft crashed North of the field 9 min after takeoff

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Lat: 35°22’18.40"N
Lon: 74°35’41.13"E

Edit: you found it lol

Wouldn’t say north, the aircraft’s last transmission was during its southbound departure:

The last words of the captain to the control tower were, ‘I am reaching Bunji,’ a town about 3 miles southeast of Gilgit.

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How much time was this transmition before time of loss of communication?

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I’m trying to calculate the LoC (I think it is Location of Crash) with what we know of the loss of communication

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Not much is said about that, only the approximate time it was said, being around 7:40, however it’s likely they would have made more transmissions soon after.

LoC refers to the Line Of Control border between Pakistan and India, there’s nothing that refers to a search area other than the nearby area. Plus calculating one is going to be really difficult, considering that it’s all based on approximations and pure guesswork. It’s not a quadratic graph :^)

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OK thanks!

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Judging by the amount of houses/agricultural platforms at the lower levels of the mountains, I’d assume the plane crashed higher up, or else it would likely have been found or at least seen by locals.

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By that and the general climbing rate of the F27, seems likely. If it crashed on the mountain, buried beneath the snow to the point that satellite imagery wouldn’t pick it up is the more viable theory.

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