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 IQBAL MIRZA

KARACHI: The Dubai-based Transwaorld Aviation FZE, which signed a multimillion dollars spare parts contract with Pakistan International Airlines a few weeks ago, has failed to make any delivery of spare parts so far, with the result that only one out of two grounded jumbo jets has been put into operation, whereas eight other aircraft still remain grounded.

In a related development, the Pakistan Airlines Pilots' Association (Palpa) has announced that it will stage a protest demonstration against acquiring aircraft on lease. The demonstration will be held at PIA head office on November 18.

According to information available here, the-non-supply of parts by Transworld Aviation has compelled the airline to ground one Boeing 737 and an Airbus for unspecified period, as some spares were taken out from these aircraft to make other planes serviceable. Under the agreement, Transworld Aviation had offered a $ 700 million credit line but it does not seem providing any benefit to the empty stores of national flag carrier.

Airline staff, conversant with the technicalities involved, said that PIA had awarded a crucial contract for procurement of aircraft spares and disposal of surplus inventory in the most non-transparent manner to a firm which does not meet even the basic requirements. They pointed out that Transworld Aviation FZE has no experience of dealing with commercial airlines and the agreement signed in a haphazard way has brought the national flag carrier to almost verge of collapse where its nine aircraft remained grounded for whole of last week and 5-6 aircraft remained grounded on average all the time.

According to details available here, a Boeing 737 AP BFT was scheduled for infrastructure check after its engine life cycle was completed. In order to keep it operational, another Boeing 737 AP BCA was grounded from which an engine was removed, as a new engine was not available, and installed in AP BFT to carry on with the operations.

Similarly, a Boeing 747 AP BGG, which remained grounded for 3-4 months, was brought into operations after installation of two engines, But it got stuck on its first flight in Islamabad while operating as PK 309, and the flight was delayed by more than eight hours.

Also, an Airbus 310, AP BGN is being grounded for frame check, earlier than planned, as its engines will be installed in other two Airbus AP BGR and AP BGQ. Two technical spare parts of engines, called reverser cowls, will be taken out from AP BGN and installed in Airbus AP BGO, which was earlier grounded.

This Airbus AO BGO is the same aircraft, which was held up in Paris in August as a result of fuel leak, detected by SAFA inspectors. The aircraft was not allowed commercial flight and, after about a week, was brought back without passengers. Since then it was parked 'peacefully' in Karachi hangar.

According to PIA engineers, grounding of AP BGO was unusual, as only due to fuel leak and unscheduled checks the aircraft should not have spent so much time in the hangar, if proper supply of spares was in place.

The AP BGN, it is feared, will remain grounded for several months more as PIA management will be left with no choice of shuffling spare parts and engines from one aircraft to another.

Another aircraft, ATR AP BHJ, has remained grounded for more than two months--for installation of two engines. ATRs came into focus two months back when two aircraft were grounded the very same day they had made emergency landings as a result of an engine shutdown during light at Karachi and Zhob. Wrong decisions are lethal for PIA as the management is shuffling its resources with no help from Transworld Aviation FZE, for which the agreement was signed, sources in PIA said.

Awarding the contract to an ineligible party, failing to meet the requirements of the tender floated, has already damaged the image of PIA in international aviation circles and alienated the most efficient and competent international suppliers who might not participate in future tenders of the national carrier, they said.

Initially, it looked that sending a considerable number of aircraft of its fleet to hangars for check and maintenance prior to Hajj was a preparation for the massive operations ahead. Later, it was thought that it was to justify the agreement with Transworld Aviation. But, as a surprise to many, it has now been proved that it is mere inefficiency that halts PIA's smooth operations.

PIA workers' unions have also decided to join hands with Pakistan Railways and Pakistan Steel Mills unions against privatisation of their organisations and threatened a nationwide protest in case government moves towards privatising these institutions.

Palpa President Capt Sohail Baloch has, in the meantime, clarified that he has not given any countrywide strike call against the government's privatisation plan. He said that Palpa had expressed its concern over the proposed privatisation plan of PIA, but did not give a call for countrywide strike.

Pilots will continue to raise the issues as their fundamental right before the management, and give suggestions for the progress and prosperity of the airline and its workers, he said.

Expressing his sympathy with the workers' unions of public sector entities, Sohail said that the Association members would soon meet the President of Pakistan and request him to intervene and instruct to resolve the issues with proper strategies, without indulging in privatisation plan.

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