Pakistani planes narrowly escape collision in Iranian airspace

Pakistani planes narrowly escape collision in Iranian airspace
An error by an Iranian air traffic controller nearly caused a collision between two Pakistan International Airlines planes at more than 30,000 feet.
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PIA used to be one of the region's best airlines till the 1970s [Getty]

Two Pakistani passenger jets had a high altitude near-miss in Iranian airspace owing to human error by air traffic controllers, an airline official said on Tuesday.

Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) said the close call happened on Sunday, when Iranian air traffic control (ATC) cleared Peshawar-bound PIA flight PK-268 to descend from 36,000 feet to 20,000 feet.

Another PIA passenger liner - PK-211 bound for Dubai - was underneath cruising at an altitude of 35,000 feet, and the planes came within 1,000 feet of each other, according to the state-owned carrier.

PIA spokesman Abdullah Hafeez Khan told AFP a cockpit "collision avoidance system helped the two pilots to correct the course and avoid a collision after the planes came close to each other".

"We will write to the Iranian authorities to investigate the incident as the ATC should not have cleared the Peshawar-bound flight to descend," he added.

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In 2016, a PIA plane burst into flames after one of its two turboprop engines failed while flying from the remote north of Pakistan to Islamabad, killing more than 40 people.

And two years ago a PIA jet crashed while landing at Karachi's Jinnah International Airport killing all but two of the 99 passengers and crew on board, casting the firm's safety standards into doubt.

Until the 1970s, PIA was considered a top regional carrier, but its reputation plummeted amid chronic mismanagement, frequent cancellations and financial woes.