The Bhoja Air jet was flying through a heavy storm when it plunged into a residential area about three miles short of the runway at Benazir Bhutto International Airport in Islamabad, authorities said. Though it was early in the investigation, officials with the Civil Aviation Authority, the body that oversees commercial aviation in Pakistan, speculated that bad weather played a major role in the crash.
Pakistani officials said 119 of the people aboard were passengers and the rest were crew members. There did not appear to be any casualties on the ground, according to authorities.
Pakistani television channels reported that the plane took off at 5 p.m. local time from Karachi, Pakistan's largest city and its commercial capital, and crashed at 6:40 p.m.
Video on Pakistani television showed rescue workers rushing to the site of the crash, where bodies of dead passengers were seen amid plane seats and mangled pieces of the plane's fuselage.
Civil Aviation Authority spokesman Pervaiz George said the aircraft was a Boeing 737. Officials said the plane was 27 years old and that Bhoja Air had recently purchased the aircraft, which was on its maiden flight on the Karachi-Islamabad route for the airline.
Bhoja Air is a small Karachi-based airline that began operating in 1993. It had suspended flights in 2001 because of financial troubles and had resumed operations in March.
The incident bore similarities to the July 28, 2010, crash of an Airblue passenger jet that killed all 152 people aboard. That aircraft was also flying from Karachi to the Pakistani capital, and was moving through heavy fog and rain when it slammed into a forested ridge outside Islamabad. The crash was believed to be the worst domestic aviation disaster in Pakistan's history.
-- Alex Rodriguez
Photo: A woman at a Karachi airport wipes away tears as she waits for updates on the fate of relatives who were traveling from Karachi to Islamabad on the Bhoja Air plane that crashed Friday. Credit: Rehan Kahn / EPA