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Airlines prefer to buy low-priced old planes

April 25, 2012


Police vehicles and ambulances are seen next to a Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) plane after it landed at Ataturk International airport in Istanbul September 7, 2011. – File Photo by Reuters.

RAWALPINDI: As against the international practice, the Pakistani airlines including the National Flag Carrier prefer to buy old and second hand planes for the low prices, a Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) official said here on Wednesday.

The issue of old and second hand planes being used by the local airlines arose after the tragic incident of Bhoja airplane crash at Hussainabad near Islamabad on Friday that killed 188 passengers and nine crew members. Soon after the crash, Defense Minister Ahmed Mukhtar directed the CAA to inspect all private airlines’ aircraft.

The CAA official said that in other parts of the world airlines replaced old and aging aircrafts. Quoting a recent example in this regard he said the neighbouring Indias national flag carrier grounded six old passenger aircraft of 737-200.

He said that the Indian airline would use these planes for cargo services.

According to the official figure obtained from CAA, Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) has six ageing 737-200 planes, nine 777, 12 Airbus310 and six jumbo 747-300 planes.

Among the private airlines, Shaheen has 10 737-200 and one 737-800, Airblue has total five planes including a 737-200 and Bhoja, after the crash  has been left with three planes: 737-200, 737-400 and DC-9.

Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) official told Dawn that the price of Boeing 737-200 model was $70 million, 737-MAX-8 $95.2 million and 737 MAX-9 $101.7 million.When contacted, CAA official spokesman Pervaiz George said the CAA allowed only those planes to fly which had been cleared by its Air Worthiness department.

“The Boeing 737-200 planes are declared air worthiness and they were operational,” he said while talking to Dawn from Karachi on phone. If a plane was not able to fly, the CAA experts did not give go-ahead signal, he added.

The spokesman said the CAA even ensured that an airline purchased genuine spare parts for its plane otherwise it was held at the airport.

He gave the example of Fokker planes and said the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) used these aircraft for more than 40 years and grounded them after the Multan crash in 2006. “The planes were still airworthy but grounded after the court verdict,” he said.

Replying to a question, he said CAA had not suspended Bhoja airline service rather people are avoiding it. He said that its two flights from Karachi to Islamabad remained suspended on Wednesday.

Regarding investigation into the plane crash, the chief of Investigations Board, Group Captain (retired) Mujahidul Islam, said his team had begun its job and the probe would take some time. He said the team visited the site and took pictures and video of the area.

Talking to Dawn, he said the team would reassemble the wreckage of ill-fated Bhoja plane to determine the cause of crash.

He said the black box would be taken to the United States for decoding.