KARACHI: Citing safety concerns, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) ordered grounding of four aircraft of Shaheen Air on Thursday, adversely affecting flight schedules of the largest private airline in the country.
According to sources, a fifth aircraft of the airline, which has not been grounded yet, faced some technical problems while landing at the Quetta airport on Thursday morning, which left the runway closed for more than two hours.
When contacted, a CAA spokesman confirmed the grounding of the faulty aircraft and cited safety issues as the reason behind the decision.
A top official of Shaheen Air also confirmed the aircraft’s grounding but said the airline had yet to be informed about the reasons.
CAA spokesman Pervez George said the grounded aircraft were two Airbus A330s, an Airbus A320 and a Boeing B737-400. He said the aircraft did not meet the safety standards prescribed by the CAA.
He said the CAA had been informing Shaheen Air of the faults noticed in the four aircraft and asking the airline to bring them at par with international standards.
The aircraft had been grounded as a last resort because the CAA could not compromise passenger safety/air safety, Mr George said.
Answering a question, he said the Airbus A320 had an “engine bleed problem” and a fuel indicator in one of the two Airbus A330s was faulty. The second Airbus A330 had “vibration issue” in its thrust reverser fire loop while the fuselage structure of the Boeing B737-400 was damaged.
About the incident in Quetta, he said the Shaheen Air aircraft developed faults in its landing gear/wheels while landing at the airport. As a result, the aircraft became immovable, blocking the runway for two and a half hours.
Mr George said that because of the incident an international flight of Fly Dubai, which was scheduled to land at noon, was delayed for more than 90 minutes.
He said that Shaheen Air had been informed about the grounding of the aircraft and also that they would not be allowed to fly again unless they met the air safety standards of the CAA.
A few days ago, the CAA had grounded aircraft of another private airline — Air Indus — as these also did not meet the safety standards, he added.
Responding to Dawn’s queries, Shaheen Air’s deputy managing director for operations, Faisal Rafique, said the airline did receive a letter in the evening informing it that its four aircraft had been grounded.
He, however, claimed that “no clear reasons have been mentioned why this drastic action has been taken against the private airline in peak Eid season”.
He said that all the aircraft in the airline were airworthy and had been passed by the CAA. He said the sudden grounding would affect the credibility of the airline.
Mr Rafique said that because of the CAA’s decision, 18 flights had been affected and over 1,500 passengers were facing hardship as a result.
He said that Shaheen Air had 19 aircraft but with four of them grounded over 20 per cent of the fleet had become nonoperational.
He confirmed the Quetta incident but said “only a tyre had burst which was not a serious issue”.
Published in Dawn, July 17th, 2015