Collapse of passenger boarding bridge at IIA caused by design fault, CAA tells senators

Published January 3, 2019
A passenger boarding bridge lies collapsed at the Islamabad International Airport. — File photo
A passenger boarding bridge lies collapsed at the Islamabad International Airport. — File photo

ISLAMABAD: The Civil Aviation Authority confirmed before a parliamentary committee on Wednesday that the passenger boarding bridge that collapsed at the Islamabad International Airport last year collapsed due to a design fault.

CAA Director General Hassan Baig told the Senate Standing Committee on Aviation that “the fault was in the design of the bridge - a loose pin”.

He said similar design problems were also detected at airports in Peshawar and Karachi.

Similar faults have been detected at airports in Peshawar, Karachi

Mr Baig was sharing the findings of an inquiry into the Oct 9 bridge collapse, which injured two staff members. After the bridge collapsed, Emirates refused to use passenger boarding bridges citing unsatisfactory safety standards. The Senate committee expressed concerns that other airlines may follow suit.

Senators were informed that the warranty period for the bridges, which were installed by a Spanish company, is going to expire in February but will be extended another year.

“The Spanish company should be responsible and has been asked to install the air bridge. The company has also been asked to correct the design fault in all the passenger boarding bridges.

“Similarly, the project management consultants overseeing the project has also being held responsible for approving the installation of an air bridge with a design fault,” Mr Baig said, adding that remaining payments to the company have been suspended.

According to the contract, the CAA is in a position to ask the company that provided the bridge to extend the warranty period, he said. The CAA is now waiting for the company to respond.

Mr Baig said these bridges are now being checked nearly every day instead of during quarterly maintenance work to avoid similar incidents.

Two senior engineers have also been held responsible by the inquiry and have been issued show-cause notices, he said.

Senator Nauman Wazir, who visited the site of the collapsed bridge, told senators at the meeting of the poor standards of maintenance at the airport.

Criticising what he called the unprofessional attitude of Pakistan International Airlines officials, Senator Wazir said: “The CAA does not have the trained staff or proper tools to check the poor design of air bridges and to maintain other equipment at the airport in general.”

While the CAA official insisted a design fault had caused the collapse, Senator Wazir, who met with officials from the Spanish company, said they had refused to accept any responsibility.

The company challenged the CAA’s allegations that the bridge collapsed due to a design fault in November.

In response to a question from committee chair Senator Mushahidullah Khan, Mr Baig said Emirates has resumed docking at the bridges.

Baggage delays

The committee also took up poor facilities at IIA, and members were told that baggage delays were specific to the new airport only.

PIA COO Aijaz Mazhar said delays were caused by customs checks, which led to passengers waiting an hour or two to collect their baggage from international and domestic flights.

The senators were told that customs checks take anywhere from five to 15 seconds.

“Plus, only one baggage cart can fit into the small space in front of the conveyer belt where the luggage is unloaded due to a fault in the infrastructure,” Mr Mazhar said.

The committee suggested increasing the speed of the belt from two to three metres per second to end delays.

Fake degrees

Mr Mazhar told the committee on Wednesday that airlines are following court orders to sack staff who held fake degrees.

Senator Khan, however, criticised the idea of rendering people without jobs and leaving families without sources of income.

“There is no court order that says to fire individuals. The court orders are to follow disciplinary procedures, which do not mean such drastic actions such as sacking staff,” he said.

The committee chair formed a subcommittee to investigate the bridge collapse incident as well as fake degrees.

Published in Dawn, January 3rd, 2019

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