KARACHI, Aug 15: The PIA’s operations seem to be facing difficulties as one of its aircraft was recently detained in Europe, another one developed a fault and was called back after it had flown for a few minutes, and yet another one was hit by a bird and had its engine damaged while numerous flights were delayed, it emerged on Monday.
An aircraft of the national flag carrier that had been detained at a French airport owing to safety reasons — citing some 39 faults/ snags including fuel leakage — arrived in the city on Monday.
According to sources, PIA’s Airbus A 310 (number AP BGO) was returning home from Milan via Paris on Tuesday and when it landed at Charles de Gualle airport the European aviation inspectors checked it and detected almost 40 snags in it and directed the crew to offload the passengers, and the aircraft was detained there.
Another PIA aircraft that was returning from the United Kingdom was diverted to France to bring the stranded passengers back home.
The snags pointed out by SAFA inspectors included one panel right of NLG door bent; right fairing (inlet) cracked and bent; one latch on each engine closed by lock wire; fuel leakage on the Engine 2 pylon at the end of refueling; hydraulic leak from steering actuator; fuel leakage from the Engine 1 pylon, both wing root and horizontal stabilizer; on right wing root external one thermal protector tightened up with locking wire; engine No 2 inboard fire seal damaged; temporary repair performed on Engine No 1 fire seal outboard; hydraulic seepage on wheel No 1 brake assembly; the list of snags goes on and on.
One of the snags that the inspectors have pointed out relates to the crew’s lack of efficiency as it said “crew not able to manage a quick and correct emergency evacuation of the aircraft on the fireman request, passengers (95) disembarking with luggage. Evacuation took place 20 minutes after the fireman request,” said the aviation regulator.
Sources in PIA’s engineering department insisted that these were minor snags and the aircraft should not have been detained in France.They also said that the management had increased the number of flights owing to which aircraft remained on ground for a very little time. Besides, the engineering department was at the old airport, while the aircraft came to the Jinnah Terminal. So very little time was available for maintenance. Nevertheless, if there was a major problem, it was sorted out before the aircraft was allowed to fly.
Responding to Dawn queries, PIA spokesperson Mashhood Tajawar said the aircraft had no major snag and was held at Paris for minor faults. He said this plane had been flying to and from Europe regularly and even on this flight it had flown from Milan before landing at Paris.
He said earlier, too, the authorities had held a PIA plane in Paris for similar minor faults. He said it was not clear why the Paris authorities were doing such things to PIA while many aircraft of African countries — having much more serious issues — also arrived there.
He said a PIA team had been sent there to contest the issue with the European authorities.
Responding to Dawn queries, Civil Aviation Authority spokesperson Pervaiz George said CAA inspectors checked the aircraft regularly and the faults for which the aircraft was held at Paris might have developed after it flew out from here.
He also insisted that the CAA put full emphasis on air safety and security.
A PIA Jumbo 747 — with over 450 Umrah pilgrims — that was hit by a bird while taking off from Karachi airport on Sunday morning, returned to the terminal, was repaired and had its engine changed. The passengers were sent by another aircraft in the afternoon.
Another PIA flight (PK 207 -- Airbus A 310) that had flown from Karachi airport on Monday morning had to return after it developed some faults in its wings. Its over 150 passengers were sent by another aircraft at 4pm. After flying for around 10 to 15 minutes when the pilots tried to retract its leading edge flaps — that are used to manoeuvre the aircraft — he found that they were jammed. He returned to Karachi to get the aircraft repaired.
According to the PIA spokesperson, the flight could have gone to Dubai for repairs but it was not sure if Dubai had such facilities.
Delays in PIA flights have become almost a routine matter. Some of the flights were delayed up to 17 hours on Monday.
Some of the flights that had been delayed are as follows:
The Karachi-Madinah flight PK 743 that was to fly at 6.25pm on Monday had been delayed for almost 11 hours and now it was scheduled to leave on Tuesday at 5am.
PIA’s Karachi-Jeddah flight PK 7649 that had to fly at 2am on the night between Sunday and Monday had been delayed for over 17 hours and it left at 7pm on Monday.
Mr Tajawar said these delays had been caused by extra flights the airline was operating to cater to the Umrah rush. The grounding of a Jumbo for around a day owing to a bird hit had also contributed to the delays.
He said PIA chief Nadeem Yusufzai had ordered an inquiry into the delays.