19 PIA planes grounded
ISLAMABAD: Nearly half of the PIA fleet has been grounded because of poor maintenance of its old and outdated aircraft.
“The Pakistan International Airlines is facing grounding of highest ever number of 19 planes in its history,” a source told Dawn on Sunday.
Two PIA aircraft have been grounded after emergency landings in Leeds, UK, and Muscat recently.
But the PIA management termed the grounding of planes a ‘routine’ process of maintenance and repair. Its spokesman Mashhood Tajwar confirmed that 19 aircraft were not operational at present, but said they had not been grounded. “We have to differentiate between grounding of planes and their routine maintenance work,” he said.
The spokesman claimed that only five aircraft were not airworthy. He, however, agreed that several planes were old and needed extraordinary maintenance and repair work.
“Sometimes repair work requires many days and as a result planes cannot fly,” he said. According to sources in the PIA, the department of procurement and purchase was responsible for the delay in maintenance of aircraft because it has been working with three main posts lying vacant for a couple of months.
They said officiating director Omar Razzaq, who is said to be a political appointee, was the only man looking after the affairs of procurement because the posts of general manager purchase technical and logistic, deputy general manager purchase technical and commercial technical and manager purchase and technical had been vacant for some time.
“As three main posts are lying vacant in the procurement department, the purchase of spare parts has been delayed,” the sources said.
The PIA’s information technology department is also said to be working without a director.
The sources said poor marketing had affected PIA’s Umrah season. The national airline “conducts Umrah operation with 50 to 60 flights every year, but this year other airlines provided service to Pakistani pilgrims because PIA’s marketing department failed to talk to Saudi authorities”.
Last year, President Asif Ali Zardari had taken notice of emergency landings by PIA aircraft.
The presidency’s spokesman said: “The president has expressed deep concern and dismay over recurring reports of emergency landings of the national carrier, mostly due to ‘technical reasons’ and said that the first and foremost responsibility of managers of any airline is to ensure that the fleet is in perfect condition to ensure safety of passengers.”