Pilot in Fatal Pegasus Crash Released to House Arrest

March 24, 2020 / Share your comments...

After two weeks in prison, Mahmut Arslan, the captain of the Pegasus Airlines jetliner that crashed killing 3, was released to house arrest on Monday, according to Turkish journalist, Didem Kuzu. Capt. Arslan was incarcerated after being discharged from the hospital where he was being treated for injuries sustained in the accident.

Pegasus Flight  2193 sped off the runway after landing at Istanbul’s secondary airport, Sabiha Gökçen on February 5th. The Boeing 737NG hit two structures and then plummeted down a steep embankment.

During his interview with the Chief Public Prosecutor, Capt. Arslan pointed out the many factors that were in play on the rainy afternoon when Flight  2193 from Izmir arrived in the airspace over Istanbul. Significantly, his co-pilot, a Dutch citizen did not speak Turkish the language being spoken with air traffic control.

The crew had received a last-minute change of runway due to weather and shortly after that, the aircraft was struck by lightning. The pilots were then notified that the flight ahead of them opted not to land. Capt. Arslan determined the 14-knot tailwind was within the airline limit of 15-knots and because he was concerned about the lightning strike he opted to put the airplane down.

Even after the main gear was on the runway, the plane did not decelerate. Capt Arslan told investigators it was six seconds before the crew began applying manual brakes.

“I was not warned by the co-pilot. Therefore, when I noticed after 6 seconds, I might have braked, ” the captain told the prosecutor.

But by then the plane was picking up speed from an increasing tailwind, according to a preliminary report to the prosecutors by the Turkish Transport and Infrastructure Ministry. This delay in braking is at the crux of the criminal prosecution, Turkish news reports suggest.

Still Capt. Arslan also told the prosecutor of poor runway conditions; there was no drainage for all the rainwater that was inundating the airfield. The runway also lacked an overrun arresting bed at its end.

Capt. Arslan described these as a “chain of faults” in asking to be released from custody. And released he was, into home confinement but he still faces charges for involuntary manslaughter and causing injury,  the journalist Didem Kuzu told me.


The criminal prosecution of a pilot during an active crash probe with no evidence of intentionality is always terrible news for aviation safety and particularly alarming at a time when many governments seem to be taking a “facts are fungible approach”.

Capt. Arslan and his co-pilot with their first-person view of what went wrong have a valuable contribution to make to aviation safety. That should be the top priority of Turkish investigators, not punishing a pilot for being the last link in an unexamined chain of events.


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