Tuesday Aug 17, 2021
KABUL: A Pakistan International Airlines pilot took a risky decision on Monday when things began to spiral out of control at the Hamid Karzai International Airport.
Horrific scenes were witnessed at the Kabul airport when hundreds of people rushed to catch a flight out of Afghanistan with the Taliban on the brink of a complete takeover of the country.
The PIA pilot, Maqsood Bajarani, was also at the airport that day, with a mission to safely bring back to Pakistan 170 people, including diplomats. Inside his Airbus jet, he was waiting for a green signal from the air traffic control to depart, when a swarm of people thronged the runway in an attempt to catch a flight out of the war-torn country on board a US military aircraft.
Another PIA flight, a Boeing 777 took off, but the Airbus had been held back.
Flights were suspended for much of Monday, when at least five people were killed, witnesses said, although it was unclear whether they had been shot or crushed in a stampede as people stormed the runway.
According to media reports, three people fell to their deaths from the underside of a US military aircraft after it took off, crashing on the roofs of homes near the airport.
Amid the scenes of desperation and panic that unfolded, an unusual announcement was made by the control tower: pilots were told to take their own decisions.
With the unexpected announcement, and faced with a rapidly worsening situation, Bajarani kept his cool, and took off without a moment's delay, right behind fighter jets that took off just then.
Senior officials of the PIA have lauded the timely move by the pilot and his staff, saying that it was a big achievement.
The PIA was all praise for how Bajarani successfully flew out of Kabul.
"The skills he demonstrated in a crisis situation is a sign of his professionalism," the CEO said.
"Captain Maqsood flew safely in unfavourable conditions," the PIA spokesman said.
A statement by the PIA acknowledged that the pilot took off at a time when things were descending into chaos.
As soon as the situation in Kabul deteriorated, the captain contacted had the management, PIA said.