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RAWALPINDI: The left wing of a Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) Airbus A320 was damaged on Thursday by a recklessly driven stairs vehicle at the Islamabad International Airport that collided with the wing when the plane was ready to be towed by ground staff to take off for Karachi.

A part of the wing known as the aileron was damaged by the vehicle. The operator of the vehicle was suspended and an investigation into the incident has begun on directives from Chief Executive Officer Air Marshal Arshad Malik.

The cancellation of the flight disrupted the travel of hundreds of passengers and disturbed the flight schedule. PIA arranged an alternative flight to take the passengers to their final destinations.

The collision occurred when the aircraft for flight PK-373 was ready to be towed, with 170 passengers on board and the doors closed. The passengers felt a slight jolt in their seats, and looked out of their windows to see what had happened to the plane.

They disembarked and were taken to the terminal building to wait while the airline’s management arranged a replacement aircraft from another route.

PK-373 was scheduled to take off at 8am, and its passengers were accommodated on PK-369 to Karachi, which took off at 1:30pm.

PIA spokesperson Mashood Tajwar said the incident was one of human error, and an investigation has been launched. He said the vehicle operator was suspended.

He said the incident occurred when the plane was ready to be towed and the stairs were being removed from the aircraft.

Mr Tajwar said the incident disturbed the flight schedule, as an alternative plane from Skardu was sent to Karachi with the passengers from the morning flight, and other passengers were accommodated on PK-309 to Karachi.

He said the aircraft’s left wing was damaged and will be repaired, as spare parts have been brought from Karachi.

He added that passengers on PK-359 who were affected by the delay were informed by PIA management well before time.

Published in Dawn, December 28th, 2018