Monday, November 30, 2015

Pakistan's First Female Fighter Pilot Killed in Trainer Crash

Pakistan's first female fighter pilot died today when a twin-seat fighter aircraft crashed in Punjab province on a training mission.

A statement from the Pakistan Air Force soon after the crash said "an FT-7PG aircraft, while on a routine operational training mission, crashed near Kundian (Mianwali). Both the pilots of the aircraft ejected safely and [have] been rescued. No loss of civilian life and property has been reported on ground. A board of inquiry has been ordered by Air Headquarters to determine the cause of accident."
Flying officer Marium Mukhtiar posing beside an aircraft in Islamabad. Marium, one of Pakistan's few female fighter jet pilots, was killed Nov. 24 in a training crash, the air force said in a statement.
However, it was later reported that Flying Officer Marium Mukhtiar died of injuries sustained on ejection.

Flying Officer Mukhtiar was the subject of a report by the BBC early in 2014 that covered her decision to join the PAF as a fighter pilot. Pakistan has only had female fighter pilots since 2006.

Pakistan Air Force (PAF) soldiers carry the coffin of female fighter jet pilot Marium Mukhtiar, who was killed in a crash during a training mission, at the Faisal Air Base in Karachi.

The FT-7PG was ordered in 1999 as part of the F-7PG package. The F-7PG is a double-delta development of the Chengdu F-7 and fitted with uprated avionics by Pakistan.

Kaiser Tufail was one of the officers who evaluated the F-7PG prior to its selection and purchase. He also flew the F-7P operationally. A former air force pilot and analyst, Tufail praised the aircraft, but under certain circumstances said it can be unforgiving.
Pakistan Air Force (PAF) soldiers carry the coffin of female fighter jet pilot Marium Mukhtiar, who was killed in a crash during a training mission, at the Faisal Air Base in Karachi.
"The FT-7PG is a regular F-7P except for the cockpit switchology and layout, which is similar to the -PG version," he said. "It is a fairly safe aircraft ... until something fails drastically."

He said he understands whatever happened hampered the ability of the pilots to eject safely.

"I have no idea what might have gone wrong, but word has it that since the ejection took place at very low altitude on final approach, the fatality might have been due to a delayed ejection," he said. "Under such flight conditions involving a rate of descent, there is not giving enough time for the chute to blossom fully."

He said without further details however this is presently speculative.

Pakistan's F-7 series of fighters are fitted with Martin Baker Mk10 zero-zero ejection seats in which it places a high degree of faith. The seat is also fitted to its Mirage-III/5s, and prior to their retirement from Pakistani service was fitted to the Nanchang A-5, Shenyang FT-5 and F-6/FT-6 jets.

Though it is a very good seat, Tufail said under certain circumstances it may not perform as well as it could.

"It is a zero-zero seat, but these have to be activated in level flight at zero level (ground). If there is a rate of descent, the minimum ejection height goes up, proportionately. In this case, the aircraft was low, on final approach, and the rate of descent apparently did not allow enough time for the parachute to blossom fully," he said.

Tufail said he believes for Mukhtiar these circumstances may have been compounded by the type of training mission she may have been flying as usually the instructor occupies the rear seat. However, if it was an instrument flying mission, then the student would have sat in the rear seat and been under a 'hood' to restrict external vision.

Though he said he did not know her personally, Tufail paid tribute to Mukhtiar.

"I am told she was a very fine officer."

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