In recent developments, a PIA official has informed the Sindh High Court (SHC) that all six ATR aircraft of the national flag carrier would be grounded by August 3, 2021.
Earlier this year in January, PIA told SHC that only six out of the total 12 ATR aircraft of the Pakistan International Airlines are functional, while the rest of the half is grounded due to non-airworthiness. However, it appears to be that PIA has now decided to ground those six ATR aircraft as well.
The bench, which comprised of Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar and Justice Amjad Ali Sahito, was hearing a case related to the investigations into the ATR crash in December 2016 that took 47 lives, including Junaid Jamshed.
The flight responsible for Pakistan’s beloved Junaid Jamshed’s death was on its way from Chitral to Islamabad when it crashed near Havelian due to the failure of its left engine.
To ensure a thorough investigation of the December 2016 crash, the bench also demanded the inspection report of the aircraft from air vigilance authorities.
The counsel replied that the petitioner had submitted some documents at the last hearing, and PIA had also submitted its reply on those documents.
“Reply submitted by PIA comprises documents that have already been submitted [to the court] and the photocopies of the same have been submitted again,” the counsel said.
During the hearing, Justice Mazhar enquired as to what steps have the national carrier taken so far to avoid such crashes. The official said that the airline is going to ground all its ATRs by August 3.
The dire state of facilities provided by PIA
The PIA representative further stated that all 20 operational PIA planes are regularly inspected by the Civil Aviation Authority.
In response, Justice Sohito remarked on the poor conditions of the facilities provided by PIA to its passengers.
“Screens often do not work, food quality is substandard and most times, no comforter is available,” he said. “And when asked [about the lack of facilities], they [the crew] reply that a new [PIA] head has been appointed and there are not enough funds.”
To that, the officials assured the court that things were now changing for the better and that significant improvements could be seen within two months.
The court directed air vigilance authorities to submit a report on the inspection of aircraft at the next hearing on April 15.
While the decision by PIA to ground all ATR planes for safety purposes is a much-needed one, however, it must be taken into account that it does fare well for PIA’s image, especially with its recent decision to expand its network internationally.